The no-judgment realm of e-commerce has propelled sales of adult fiction upwards in the last few years, which is funny considering that it's doing the exact same thing (and for pretty much the same reasons) to Christian fiction. According to data from the American Association of Publishers, sales of religious fiction have increased by 7 percent up to $1.45 billion largely on the strength of e-books, which allow closet readers of Judith and Holoferenes fan fiction to clandestinely purchase biblical fiction quartets without suffering the scowls of other book-buyers. Actually, Christian fiction isn't anywhere near as lurid as the Judith and Holofernes story — it's more like, a chaste farmer quietly and seriously woos a rural schoolteacher for twenty years and then, at the end of the book, they get together and have sex with Jesus.
The new figures for sales of Christian fiction are six times last year's numbers, and, according to some estimates, e-book sales account for a third of the total. Founder of Smashwords.com Mark Coker thinks that e-book discretion is the reason behind the dramatic uptick in sales, since no one else will spy the unfortunate cover art of Jesus Redux when you order it with your iPad magic. "These books can be sampled," says Coker "purchased and read without the judgmental eyes of a clerk at the cash register, or colleagues who might glance at the cover." Glance at the cover, roll their eyes, and then not recommend that Roberto Bolaño book that they've been treading water with for the last seven months. You might not be the number one superfan of Christian fiction, but we can all agree that bookstores, like video rental places before them, can be full of judgy pseudo-aficionados who love to seize the opportunity to deride your purchase.