Archive

Archive for May, 2009

Amazon Vs. Christian Bookstores: A British Perspective

Dave Faulkner is a Methodist minister in the UK who shares this:

What works in favour of the conventional Christian bookshop? It may be a truism, but it’s worth restating: Christian bookshops can (or should) be a ministry, with a certain atmosphere and ambiance, whereas Amazon and their ilk are businesses. (Not that I’m having a go at business.) A Christian bookshop can win me over by the personal qualities of the staff, not just the discounts. Some work hard on this, a few don’t.

To continue reading more of what Dave says, click here.

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Today’s Christian Woman to Cease Publication

TCWJust a few weeks after we reported on a number of Christian magazines shutting down, today Christian E-tailing is reporting that Today’s Christian Woman — another magazine owned by Christianity Today — will cease publication.   After its launch, TCW was regularly one of the top five Christian magazines shipping from Ingram Periodicals.

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Michael’s Family Books Features Clean Layout

If I were to put up pictures of my store — something that will never happen! — it wouldn’t look like this.   This is a very futuristic, clean layout;  simplifying the layout of the old Mitchell Pickering store — see article two posts back — which used the same fixtures in the same location.  (Or possibly the result of what happens when you freshly stock a store from scratch with the latest and the best of what’s available.)   Perhaps in future we’ll get some shots of the 360-degree checkout counter and the food service area.

Got pictures of your store you’d like to share?   E-mail ’em anytime!

Michael's - Gift Department

Michael's - Music Dept 1

Michael's - Music Dept 2

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Video Trailers: The New Book Marketing Method

RSS Readers need to link to the blog for this post.

Increasingly, video clips are being produced to promote books.   Here’s one for the book Unlikely Disciple by Kevin Roose (Grand Central / Hachette Book Group) which makes you really want to read the thing.   BTW, although this is a general market title, and a bit edgy at times, we do sell it in our store, as does the Family Christian Books chain in the U.S.


Here’s one for Take One by Karen Kingsbury (Zondervan)

And finally, Nightmare’s Edge from Bryan Davis (Zondervan), author of the Dragons series.

There’s also one for The Noticer from Andy Andrews, but hey, we’ve covered that book three times here already.   Oh, okay…


WHAT DO I DO WITH THESE? You can (a) Have your staff watch them to be familiar with — and excited about — the upcoming titles, (b) Embed them in your store blog or website, or (c) Link to them in your store’s print or e-mail newsletter.   Any other suggestions?

An Exhaustive History of Christian Music in the U.K.

Tony Cummings has produced a history that the manager of your music department, as well as anyone interested in the corporate history of Authentic Music, Kingsway or Word UK, should read.   It’s long, but worth the read.   Link here to the article at CrossRhythms.

This is also a good place to remind you of my own History of Modern Worship.   It’s written from a worship-leader’s point of view, but then we printed some up and had them available in our music department for people who wanted to know where their favorite praise music originated.   You can read that one on my blog, linked here.

Newman_KevinAnd speaking of my blog, be sure to link to yesterday’s post for information about the documentary on Evangelicals in Canada, airing this coming Monday night at 10 PM on Global Television with Global news anchor Kevin Newman.

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Michael’s Family Books Opens in Former RGM Pickering Spot

We’d hoped to have some pictures of the interior of the new store, but for now, this is a shot from the ribbon-cutting and dedication of Michael’s Family Books, located on Brock Road in Pickering (eastern part of the Greater Toronto Area) which took place late April.

Store Opening Michaels Family Books

The building’s landlord couldn’t help notice the steady traffic RG Mitchell had at this location, so he purchased the fixtures and fittings from the liquidator and former RGM staff member Brian Reynolds was brought in to oversee the location continuing as a Christian bookstore.

The exterior singnage, not shown, reveals the similarity between the two MFB names and logos.  Customers can be forgiven for not noticing that it’s a different ownership or management.  Approximately one-sixth of the selling area was re-formatted for use as a coffee/snack area.

STL Offers Parcel Tracking in Real Time

Modern parcel logistics means that real-time tracking is normative in other industries, but for Canadian Christian bookstores, it’s still a bit of a rarity; in fact a few of our suppliers don’t have a wholesale website at all.    Here’s the journey my last order took with them before arriving yesterday:


Package History

Date Time Location Activity
05/20/2009 16:25:00 PORT HOPE CA DELIVERED
08:00:00 PETERBOROUGH ON CA OUT FOR DELIVERY
06:00:00 PETERBOROUGH ON CA ARRIVAL SCAN
04:21:00 CONCORD ON CA DEPARTURE SCAN
01:32:00 CONCORD ON CA LOCATION SCAN
00:07:00 CONCORD ON CA ARRIVAL SCAN
05/19/2009 22:00:00 FT. ERIE ON CA DEPARTURE SCAN
20:58:00 FT. ERIE ON CA LOCATION SCAN
20:56:00 FT. ERIE ON CA IMPORT SCAN
18:13:00 FT. ERIE ON CA UNLOAD SCAN
14:31:00 FT. ERIE ON CA ARRIVAL SCAN
14:07:00 BUFFALO NY US DEPARTURE SCAN
13:35:00 BUFFALO NY US ARRIVAL SCAN
05:52:00 HARRISBURG PA US DEPARTURE SCAN
03:32:00 HARRISBURG PA US ARRIVAL SCAN
05/18/2009 22:11:00 ROANOKE VA US DEPARTURE SCAN
20:23:00 ROANOKE VA US ARRIVAL SCAN
05/17/2009 02:52:00 WEST COLUMBIA SC US DEPARTURE SCAN
05/16/2009 14:00:00 WEST COLUMBIA SC US DEPARTURE SCAN
12:10:00 WEST COLUMBIA SC US LOCATION SCAN
02:09:00 KNOXVILLE TN US LOCATION SCAN
01:10:00 KNOXVILLE TN US ARRIVAL SCAN
05/15/2009 22:28:00 JOHNSON CITY TN US DEPARTURE SCAN
20:39:00 JOHNSON CITY TN US ORIGIN SCAN
19:30:58 US BILLING INFORMATION RECEIVED

As you can see, I ordered late Friday and received the parcel on Wednesday afternoon. The boxes are extra-protective, and the GST has already been dealt with and appears with the rest of the invoice which is in U.S. dollars. Credit card payments are accepted.

There are some new posts on the discussion board, click the link at the top of the page.   Feel free to join the conversation.   You can also comment here on this post, or any others.

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Audio Books: The Missing Piece of Data

CD-BlankWhen a customer is considering ordering an audio for a book that was written by an author whose voice we have come to know on radio or television; or an audio of a book that is based on the material of a Christian comedian; or any similar consideration; the most important information determining the customer’s decision to purchase is:   WAS THE AUDIO READ BY THE AUTHOR?

If so, tell us.   If not, tell us.   This information needs to be part of the annotation in Ingram, STL, Anchor and Christian Book.    Especially if, for whatever reason, the image was not uploaded.

It’s not rocket science.

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Reconsidering What Enters My Store

Christianity in Crisis

Today on my personal blog, I reviewed the book, Christianity in Crisis: The 21st Century by Hank Hanegraaff.

This book was an eye-opener.   I have to really think long and hard about what I’m willing to order in for customers, let alone carry as instock merchandise.  I mean, would you order The Book of Mormon for a customer?

If my concern seems a little extreme, it’s because I really like the way Hanegraaff does not alienate any Pentecostal or Charismatic readers.   It is just the “Word of Faith” teachers he targets.   (Many of whom encourage their viewers to bypass your store and order their resources directly.)

Read what I wrote, or even better, check out the 28 other reviews for this item at christianbook.com; and tell me I don’t face a serious decision.

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For our Ontario readers, Lakeshore Pentecostal Camp has posted their summer concert schedule, which you can also pick up on our store’s Christian Events Calendar.   Scroll down past the main listings and the book chart.

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Sabotage!

When you order books from David C. Cook, Foundation, Augsburg-Fortress, etc., there is a sense in which you feel confident in thinking that the people processing, picking and packing your order are fellow believers like yourself, committed to the same core values and sense of mission.

The opposite is also true.   When you buy books from Ingram, HarperCollins, Random House, etc., you are always aware — especially when there is direct contact — that the people serving you do not share your core faith values and have no affinity to the products or bookstores in question.

This begs the question, How do these people feel about us and the particular product lines we purchase?    And if there are people in the organization whose views are diametrically opposed to ours, do they ever, as the British would say, throw a spanner into the works?   Are certain products or processes involving your favorite authors and publishers subject to potential sabotage?

I say this not as a conspiracy theorist, nor as one suffering from paranoia, but as someone who spends a lot of time doing purchasing online.

ITEM (1)  –  We’ve noticed a lot of product at Ingram is set up rather strangely.   Recently we encountered a Lillenas music book that was set up under words that simply don’t appear anywhere on the cover.    We contacted Lillenas directly, and they were trying to get the Ingram database corrected.

Ingram is also a challenge as you really have to be intuitive when choosing “Title (Exact)”, versus “Title (Keywords)” versus “Title (Start Of).”   Just when you’ve been doing this for years and think you’ve got it down to a science they throw a curveball at you.    An “exact” search requires the full subtitle, so a search for “King James Only Controversy: Can You Trust  Modern Translations?” would be reasonable, except that they’ve added, in parenthesis, the word “Expurgated.”    Sorry, exper-who?   It is a revised or second edition, but no mention of that in any form appears on the cover.

Some of you will also remember when there was so much pornography “accidentally” shipping to Ingram Periodicals Christian stores that they had to develop two separate shipping and packing streams to make sure it never happened.

ITEM (2)  – We always try to have the complete ISBN or ISBN-13 when ordering, but sometimes last minute additions occur even while you’re on the phone.   We’ve noticed that at HarperCollins Canada, if there’s an opportunity to send the wrong product, they will, even after assuring us over the telephone that we’ve definitely got the right item.

So repeatedly, quantities of paperbacks by Terry Blackstock or Karen Kingsbury arrive as the very expensive and very difficult-to-sell audio books.    Arrrrgh! You’d think we would have learned our lesson by now, and in fact we have, which is why I wasn’t prepared for this week’s adventure.

Thinking that there was nothing else with the same name and author, we ordered three copies of the NOOMA DVD, Corner by Rob Bell.   Instead, we received three sets of five study guides that go with the video.   Arrrrgh! (And we buy non-returnable.)    So now, everything has to have an ISBN or ISBN-13, even if it delays the customer order by another week, which this week meant an entire order didn’t get placed at all.

ITEM (3) – Random House Canada seems less vulnerable to sabotage, but the order entry process can be cumbersome as they aren’t always aware of what they’re allowed to ship to Canada.   Big issues here can also include not knowing the difference between a primary title and its study guide or workbook.   Fortunately, they do better at follow up and seem to genuinely want to troubleshoot errors before the parcel leaves the warehouse.

ITEM (4) – Many of the giftware suppliers seem less than thrilled about their lines of religious plaques, crosses or jewelry.   Orders are fairly accurate, but you sometimes get a sense of hostility over the telephone.    That tends to make me less inclined to place another order anytime soon.

None of this is to say that errors and poor customer service experiences don’t also happen with our “Christian” suppliers; but you do have a sense that these are people just like you, who will be worshiping with their families on Sunday morning and who, unless some personnel people really didn’t do their screening, have the same mission and purpose as the rest of us, both in their job performance and their personal lives.

BTW, I don’t need to remind you that our witness for Christ begins with how you treat people in the general market distributing companies, even when they’ve totally messed up your order for the nth time.   I try to be extra nice, though I know I’ve probably messed up in 30+ years of doing this.   Conversely, I do hold my brothers and sisters in the Christian publishing houses to a higher standard of excellence, doing everything as unto the Lord. Not perfection, just a higher standard.

Some companies hire a mix of staff, so there is also the sense in that you need to have an idea who you’re dealing with.    One false assumption could really turn someone off from further investigation of the Christian faith.

So what about you?   Do you sense a difference in dealing with different suppliers?   Do you think some employees deliberately sabotage their Christian product database entries or shipments?

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Who Says We Don’t Know About Gambling?

Don’t tell me about Las Vegas or the stock market, I’ve been busy playing this game:

dollar - one year - May 14Canadian to U.S. dollar conversion Yahoo Finance website

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Getting Off The Propaganda Train

Just now I unsubscribed from Strang’s Christian Gift Trends e-mail, which I never signed up for in the first place.   It will be interesting to see if I still get Christian E-tailing, or if the two are indivisibly linked.

The last straw was an article with someone at Dayspring saying that the big trend is audio cards.   Sorry lady, but  I don’t think so.    The big trend is parent company Hallmark trying to force these cards into the Christian market, for whatever reason.    The song choices for Mother’s Day were terrible.   Did your store sell any or are you shipping them all back, also?

Sometimes people in wholesale describe as a trend what is really a wish, a hope, a dream.   And it’s easy to say something is your top producer because it’s the number one thing shipping out of your warehouse, but the story is told months later, when the returns start rolling in.

I just want the facts, not propaganda.