Nashville's religious publishing houses are gearing up their printing presses for a public demanding spiritual information and guidance to face the tragic events of Sept. 11. The major Christian booksellers in Nashville say they usually begin ramping up inventories for the Christmas holiday season about now. However, the rush started early this year. "Demand has been beyond the norm," said Ed Kowalski, senior vice president of marketing and sales for Cokesbury United Methodist Publishing House. He said the company has given vendors a heads-up that inventory orders are likely to be larger and made sooner than in previous years.

Typically, Bible sales peak around Easter and Christmas, as well as in June, a time when fancy volumes are given to college graduates and newlyweds. Around the country, retailers are reporting sales surges on Bibles, books on coping with grief and those on explaining Islamic beliefs. Zondervan in Grand Rapids, Mich., one of the largest Bible publishers in the world, on Friday told the Detroit Free Press of a spike in Bible sales. "From the retail level, it appears that sales are up 20 to 30 percent and that's pretty significant for us," said Cris Doornbos, executive vice president of sales.

Doornbos's company has also experienced a run on Where Is God When It Hurts? by Philip Yancey. That title has sold nearly 1 million copies in the 20 years it has been released, but Doornbos said his company received orders for 775,000 copies within a day of the terrorist attacks.

In Nashville, the Broadman & Holman publishing imprint of LifeWay Christian Resources has run out of its inventory of What You Need to Know About Islam & Muslims, by George Braswell. The book is in its third reprinting in two weeks. "We're back on the press with an order for 25,000 books,` said John Thompson, vice president of marketing for Broadman & Holman. He said the company is already bidding on a second print order for the book.

The retail Christian bookstores of Cokesbury and LifeWay, the publishing arm of the Nashville-based Southern Baptist Convention, have seen similar increases in sales, ranging from 2 percent up to 15 percent for Bible sales over this time last year. At the same time, books on dealing with grief have shot up 65 percent in some cases.

R.H. Boyd Publishing Corp. has sold four to five Bibles a day since the attack, up from an average of two sales a week. Company spokesman Michael Spurlock said the increase represents a dramatic jump for the bookstore, at the company's headquarters and printing operation on Centennial Boulevard.

Nashville publicly owned religious publisher Thomas Nelson Inc. has had its major customers report 20 percent to 25 percent increases in Bible sales since the terrorist attacks. "Historically, during depressions and wars," said Craig Featherstone, "people turn to the Bible for comfort."

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