William Frizelle is the manager of Mound Books, Edinburgh. He shares insights with us on the current state of Christian reading and retailing.
JT: Tell us about Mound Books.
WF: Mound Books was established in October 2019 with the aim of making Christ known in Scotland. We seek to do this by providing access to solid, biblical Christian books as easily and as economically as possible.
We are situated on the Mound in central Edinburgh (literally a two-minute walk down from the castle), and currently occupy the location of the former Free Church of Scotland Bookshop which sadly closed some years ago. But as it happened, it was this unfortunate closure that prompted us to establish Mound Books in the first place.
Readers may already be familiar with the Evangelical Bookshop in Belfast. Upon hearing the news of the closure of the Free Church Bookshop, the board of trustees of the Evangelical Bookshop, after much prayer and consideration, decided to take up the space left behind by the demise of this shop.
This led to the formation of Mound Books effectively as an Edinburgh branch of the Evangelical Bookshop, albeit with a different name to suit our location.
I am very pleased to report that since our foundation in 2019 our sales have gone from strength to strength with the final few months of 2022 being our busiest to date, for which we give glory to God.
JT: How does Mound Books stand out from other bookstores?
WF: Probably the most distinctive feature of Mound Books, except for the possibility of us having the smallest Christian Bookshop floor space in the UK, is our focus on Reformed and evangelical books.
Right from the outset of the life of Mound Books it was decided that we will follow the ethos and focus of our partners in Belfast. This would mean specialising exclusively in titles that fit with the Reformed Calvinistic tradition.
With a financial outlook this may appear a strange decision – let’s face it, Reformed literature does not sell as well as titles with a Charismatic or prosperity gospel theme. Nonetheless, we felt God’s call not to deviate from the biblical truths of the doctrines of grace, which many Christian bookshops appear to have done.
The books we stock, therefore, are those produced by publishers who hold to core evangelical and Reformed teachings. These include Banner of Truth, Reformation Heritage, Presbyterian & Reformed, Christian Focus, Ettrick Press, Evangelical Press, Ligonier, Crossway, and others.
JT: What are the challenges and encouragements you’ve experienced over the last three years?
WF: For any retailer – bookshop or otherwise – the most challenging time we have faced over the last three years has been the Covid lockdowns. With no customers coming into the shop ‘off the street’, all of our business suddenly turned and relied upon our online presence.
Whilst we had a website from day one of the shop’s existence, the first couple of weeks of lockdown were spent improving and simplifying the customer experience on our site.
By God’s grace, this helped us to get through those dark weeks, and whilst many retailers went under in that period, I am glad to say that we were able to keep our head above water, and we praise God for that.
Lockdown also prompted us to improve our social media outlets as a means of promoting the shop and online sales. Our Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube pages grew threefold during this time and still form a core outlet for our sales and promotions of new books.
Among the most encouraging things I’ve witnessed over the last three years has been the number of unbelievers coming into the shop and asking what it means to be a Christian.
This may seem almost too good to be true, but I can assure you that during the summer months we have had people on an almost daily basis coming into the shop simply because they have never seen or even heard of a Christian bookshop before.
We give God glory once again for many gospel conversations that have taken place purely because our sign outside says Christian bookshop!
This feeds into our ethos as a shop that it is right to have a physical Christian bookshop presence on the high street. It’s all well and good having an online-based business, or one based in some industrial estate on the edge of town.
I’m sure many believers and churches do benefit from a business like that, but no unbeliever is ever going to come across a website or an industrial unit unless they deliberately look for it. In contrast, having a physical presence in the centre of a town or city leads (and has led in my experience) to many people coming across by accident a Christian bookshop.
Over the course of last summer, we have been able to provide many people who had no intention of ever coming into any form of ‘Christian place’ with books that point them to Christ. Not only that, but it has been a great encouragement to me personally to be able to provide people with their first ever Bible, purely because they have stumbled across us by accident.
I praise God for such a wonderful opportunity to share the gospel. After all, none of these people may ever have read a Bible unless Mound Books was here – clearly God’s providence at work!
JT: Is there a process of vetting theological works before they become available at Mound Books?