Christian Colouring Product Ignites a Ministry of Encouragement

This article about a product from Christian Art Gifts appeared in the summer issue of Faith Today, a publication of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. It wasn’t available online in the traditional sense, so I took the liberty of doing a screenshot.

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Christian Yellow Pages Guides Customers to Your Store

For years, the Shepherd’s Guide directories have been a good friend to Christian retailers. The company currently boasts of having “344,000 printed copies distributed across 17 regions of Canada.” They’re often the first contact customers have with bookstores like yours.

In turn, local stores make the directories — which are free — available to customers who might be looking for a Christian lawyer, real estate agent, dentist or auto mechanic.

If you have an advertising budget, The Shepherd’s Guide ought to be near the top of your priority list.

They’ve also currently got a website overhaul in process which will, beyond the print copies, guide even more customers to local Christian retailers.  Visit the site at

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HarperCollins Won’t Fix Systemic Shipping Issue

If you’ve ever been told by a supplier that a title you’re ordering is not available because Wal-Mart bought all the copies, you understand the need for protected, or monitored stock. These “golden” titles are performing so well that they are passed into a separate order stream. Usually, by the time someone signs off on the quantity you or I require, the item is supposed to link up with the rest of your purchase order.

We all know that doesn’t happen.

The problem is that in the Christian bookstore market, some of these titles are needed by Canadian stores in very small quantities. It wouldn’t upset major players like Barnes and Noble if a family-owned Christian retailer in Saskatchewan or New Brunswick ordered three copies of a new title about Dolly Parton.

But they get shipped separately and they arrive damaged.

And everyone at HarperCollins — and believe me, I’ve talked to people at three different levels, one of which is management — passes the blame on to someone else.

HarperCollins won’t fix the problem. They readily admit that the situation creates above average levels of damaged stock.

But they don’t fix it.

Recently I ordered a copy of Inspired by Rachel Held Evans. I don’t intend to stock this in any depth, but I’m carrying it in inventory, not just for special orders. The book arrived damaged. I ordered another one. It also shipped separately. It arrived damaged.

I also — because of my blog activity — am able to request review copies, which are shipped to a different address. I figured I’d swap out a review copy of Inspired to replace the most recent damaged one.

It shipped separately as well.

And came damaged.

This is the problem with large corporations. Everyone passes the blame to a different department. Everyone accepts the “normalization of deviance” (look up the term) and some people in the organization simply don’t give a



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Random Acts of Graphics

Feel free to borrow. Click on each for a higher resolution image.

First for music, we simply pulled the last three images out of an email Parasource sent today, and then added the first one just because. (Perhaps the gang at Parasource could do these for us, and then adapt them for their marketing solicitation. Just an idea.)

For this fiction image, I wanted a supplier balance as well as highlighting “A” list titles.

For this non-fiction one, I used it as a Facebook cover page; just because it was time to change our FB look. It’s sized accordingly when you click the image. I realized later there was no supplier balance here; it just worked out that way. This was the first one I did, and in hindsight, I could have included dates as I did with music.

This one is a partial (about 25% of the total) screen shot off a Billboard Music page. It’s a long, long graphic image containing 50 items, so I cut it off at a dozen. Not the clearest, but faster than doing it myself and our music customers appreciate this sort of thing. Good for a website or blog, not recommended for Facebook, though you could run two columns of six each. Remember these are song titles, not albums; airplay, not sales.

Feel free to send us anything you have which other stores can use!

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You Can’t Sell a Bible Edition You Don’t Respect

Gift and Award Bibles, regardless of translation, have one thing in common: They’re cheaply produced (and they look it.) Fortunately, there are better options.

Thankfully, one of the elements of the Bible publishing industry that seems, from my vantage point at least, to be fading is what is called “Gift and Award Bibles.” Most of the translations on the market have a contract with a publisher to produce these combined Old-and-New Testaments which, like the name implies, are usually given out by churches to visitors or awarded to Sunday School children as prizes.

These Bibles have one factor which unites them all: They’re cheap.

And while a child of 5 or 6 may be honored to receive one, for anyone else, closer examination proves how cheaply they are made. Here’s the way it works:

  1. Newsprint is the cheapest paper available
  2. Newsprint is thicker, meaning the Bible would be “fat” if printed normally
  3. Type-size is therefore reduced to some infinitesimal font size.

So basically, we’re talking about a hard to read Bible printed on cheap paper which fades after a few years.

To be fair, a few companies have tried a better paper stock, but this only resulted in the price going up, defeating their purpose.

I have two observations about these Bibles:

  1. I think that in some respect, these are Bibles churches give away to people that they’re not always sure they’re ever going to see again.
  2. I think that, at least in how it appears in 2018, this genre was developed by people who had little respect for the Bible to begin with.

The only way to avoid giving these away without breaking the church budget was to use pew Bibles (produced in mass quantities and therefore still quite affordable) as giveaway hardcover/textbook editions. But for some reason, people like the appearance of leather when choosing a Bible for giveaway. Also, if your church uses the same Bible edition in the pews, the “gift” can look like you just went into the sanctuary/auditorium and grabbed something off the rack to give away.

The good news is that many churches can afford to do better, and many publishers are now making this possible.

♦ The NLT Bible (Tyndale) introduced some “Premium Value Slimline” editions several years back including both regular print and large print, retailing at $15.99 and $20.99 respectively. (All prices USD.)

♦ Then the NIV (Zondervan) entered the race with their “Value Thinline” editions, again in two sizes at $14.99 and $19.99, with five different covers.

♦ Next, The Message (NavPress) created three “Deluxe Gift” editions in regular print at $15.99.

♦ Then, back to NIV for a minute, Zondervan upped the game by discontinuing their existing editions and replacing them with new ones using their new, much-easier-to-read Comfort Print font. Pricing stayed the same.

♦ Because of their expertise and success with the NIV product, HarperCollins Christian Publishing recently introduced the similar editions in NKJV, using the same Comfort Print font.

♦ Finally, ESV (Crossway) is also in the game, with “Value Thinline” and “Value Compact” editions. I have to be honest here. These are in no way up to the binding standard of the others, and frankly owe more to the old-school, aforementioned Gift and Award Bibles, albeit with better paper stock. The sleeve — from which the Bible is difficult to extract — claims this is “bonded leather” but in my opinion, that’s a stretch. While the others get an A+, I’d give the ESVs a D at best.

These Bibles look like something the church isn’t ashamed to give away, and the recipient is proud to own.

Further, for customers on a budget, there’s nothing stopping these from being purchased individually and becoming someone’s primary Bible.

Shepherd’s Fold Heading for Its 2,000th Sale of Dutch Blitz Card Game

Over 1,900 sold so far? Really? In Grand Prairie, Alberta? I have to say it was hard to imagine. But here’s what Shepherd’s Fold Bookstore reported on Facebook:

The City of Grande Prairie is a Dutch Blitz town. We’re fanatics for this “vonderful goot game” !!

Over the years Shepherd’s Fold has sold stacks of Dutch Blitz. AS OF TODAY, we’ve collectively sold 1913 copies of the original green deck and blue expansion deck.

This summer we’ve stocked up on both editions and are throwing them on sale for $9.99 each. Never a better time to replace your old beat up deck – or to introduce a new family to this fast-paced, relationship-testing game.

What do you think, will we make it to 2000 before summer’s out? Tag any other fanatics and start your own dutch blitz revival.

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Ontario Stores: Clarification of Tax Exemption on Book-Related Media

Most of us in Ontario know this, but it’s always helpful to review.

What follows is from the Ontario Ministry of Finance, accessed July 9, 2018 at 12:00 Noon:

Ontario provides relief on specific items that are subject to the HST through a point-of-sale exemption. You are not required to pay the Ontario portion (8%) of the HST on items such as books,…

Books, including:

  • a printed book or an update of a printed book,
  • an audio book (i.e., all or substantially all of which is a spoken reading of a printed book),
  • a bound or unbound printed version of a scripture of any religion,
  • a printed book and a read-only medium (e.g., CDROM) whose content is related and integrated with the book’s content and when sold together as a single package,
  • a printed book and a read-only medium and/or a right to access a website when sold together as a single package, and if specifically designed for students enrolled in a qualifying course, such as educational courses of elementary or secondary schools.

The important thing for stores such as ours to remember is that a sermon recording does not relate to a published book. Sermon audio, if your store sells it, would be taxable. So a Joyce Meyer teaching CD is taxed at 13% (5% + 8%) but a Joyce Meyer audio book would be a straight 5%.

The linked section above also deals with other commodities most of us don’t carry, however, if you sell t-shirts in your store, you might occasionally get some children’s sizes:

Children’s clothing

  • designed for babies, girls and boys up to and including girls’ Canada Standard Size 16 and boys’ Canada Standard Size 20 including baby bibs, bunting blankets and receiving blankets
  • designated for girls and boys in sizes small, medium or large if the clothing does not have a designated Canada Standard Size…  

I would be interested in hearing how this compares with other provinces.

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Durham Christian Books’ New Location is a Beautiful Store to Visit

While I’d seen pictures on Facebook, our opportunity to drop by the new location of Durham Christian Bookstore on Saturday proved it to be even more impressive than the pictures show. Not just on an overall basis, but shelf-by-shelf the store reflects a touch of class and attention to display details. There was an ample selection of Bibles, carefully displayed giftware (including the store windows), a 16-foot Dayspring Card selection, remainder titles and of course, various categories of books. The media selection is quite conservative but they’re planning to grow it over time. Right now the challenge is getting to know what types of products are in demand in a different market.

Last month the store moved from a longtime location in Bowmanville, Ontario to Oshawa under new ownership of Meredith and Jason Chin. Their website tells the story:

After over 15 years in the social services field, Meredith felt that God was calling her into something different. She just didn’t know what that was.

We made it a focus of our prayer time and within three days we received that email notifying that Bill and Sharon VanDerHerberg (the original founders of Durham Christian Bookstore) were retiring and looking for someone to take over the business.

We knew instantly that this is what God was wanting for us to do. Meredith gets to use her love for books, and Jason gets to be all techie (win, win).

Interestingly, the location was previously a storefront church; a deliverance centre incorporating a large immersion baptistry. The former platform of the church is an elevated section from which we took the first two pictures below. The rest are from their Facebook page.

Meredith said they plan to develop their own online store on an original platform, hoping to launch in the Fall. (Jason is a website designer.)

The store is located at 524 Simcoe Street South, with relatively quick access to and from Highway 401 and free parking to the north of the building.

Click this link for our previous article about the store’s move.

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For the Love of Books

From the YouTube channel Must Do Travels:

The Last Bookstore is a bibliophile’s adventure in waiting. Located in downtown Los Angeles, this used bookstore is more than what it seems on the surface. Although it is almost interesting enough that this used bookstore is housed inside of an old bank, and they keep some books inside of bank vaults, there’s more than meets the eye.

On the second floor you can wander around a Labyrinth made of bookcases and explore strange pop art installations and architecture made from old books. It is a great place to take some photos or selfies, and it’s one of LA’s few FREE things to do (sans the local parking costs).


Other posts in our “For the Love of Books” series: Click here.

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Bible Society to Launch Bible Centre and Café in Vancouver

The Canadian Bible Society’s (CBS) Vancouver location will soon transition to become Bible Centre and Café and they’re involving their friends with two contests, one competition to create a mural, and one competition to actually name the facility. The name contest is on until July 13th, whereas on Facebook, the facility is currently listed as VanBibleCafé.

A customer email notes:

Yes – you read it right! The Canadian Bible Society (CBS) will soon open to the public its first Bible café… The purpose of the CBS Bible café is to provide space with a bookstore and café that promotes and encourages conversations of faith – over coffee – in many areas such as the arts and compassion ministries. The café will also serve as the ministry centre of CBS in Canada’s west coast, making Bibles and Scripture resources available to faith-based ministries.

The café will feature

  • One stop place for Bible resources
  • Bargain corner and specials
  • Free WiFi
  • Networking
  • Discussion Groups
  • Friendly Environment
  • Topical Coffee Meetings
  • Private Meeting Room

Is this format coming soon to a Bible Society location near you? The naming contest email begins, “Name our first Bible café.” (Italics added.) We’re betting they’re going to see how this one goes before rolling out new locations.

We wish CBS all the best in this new venture.


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Another Way to Present Historical Fiction

As a smaller store, we don’t get access to the promotional posters or window clings promoting new book titles. So we have to be creative when we receive publisher catalogues, particular the opening pages which devote a full 8 x 10 image to a single forthcoming title, which we post on the wall near our entrance.

The problem is print catalogues are disappearing. We only get them if we beg for them, and honestly, from a distributor perspective, perhaps we don’t buy enough to justify receiving them.

I was recently re-examining a Spring 2017 Baker Books catalogue (the last one we received) when I came across this page showing a rather unique way of introducing Historical Fiction which I wanted to share here in case you missed it too.

The timeline is brilliant and will really resonate with readers intimately familiar with this fiction genre.

Perhaps Baker has more of these we can post or link to in a future article. (I’d love this as an in-store poster!) Click the image below to see full size.



Pre-Screening Bookstore Job Applicants

There are many things in my store I haven’t done right, but once we established this framework for prospective employees, I thought it was the best thing we ever did.

It’s hard to believe it’s been five years since I last ran this here. Because we once had three stores, we used this extensively, and in the last 23 years have employed 45 people — not including inventory help — in four different locations.

And in case you’re wondering, to a large extent, completing this form basically was the interview. Everything after this was secondary. I think it helped communicate some of the things which were important to us; it told our job-seekers, many of which were already customers, a little about our priorities.

Searchlight Pre-Interview Questionnaire

(1) We hire mostly from our customer base. So….read any good books lately? What are some recent or classic Christian titles that mean a lot to you?

(2) What other Christian bookstores have you enjoyed shopping at?

(3) We sell a variety of styles of music. How do you feel about selling a Christian rock CD to a teenager with facial piercings and purple hair?

(4) What are your feelings about the variety of Bible translations on the market? Would you be open to selling the various types we carry?

(5) Do you own or have you used Bible reference materials such as a Concordance or Bible Dictionary or Bible computer software?

(6) If someone walked in and ask you to, would you be comfortable praying with someone in the store?

(7) If the cash register fails, are you comfortable completing a transaction manually in a sales books, with different rates of tax?

(8) Skill-testing question re. the above: If books are subject to 5% GST, and CDs are subject to 5% GST and 8% PST, and there is no tax at all on gift certificates, what is the total sale amount on the following: a $20 book, a $20 CD and a $20 Gift Certificate?

(9) We refer people to a variety of local churches depending on their story. Are you familiar with the worship patterns of a few different denominations and comfortable recommending a church to someone even if it’s not your personal first choice?

(10) We do pay our staff, but since our staff are basically, ‘working for peanuts’ do you feel a sense of calling to this type of ministry that would override financial considerations?

(11) While human rights legislation prevents limiting applicants on the basis of faith, is there anything in your personal faith journey that you feel would be helpful for us to know, given the nature of the store and its customers, or part of your own faith story you wish to tell?

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