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Archive for July, 2010

Anne Rice: “I Quit Being A Christian”

Another author, John Shore, has this up on his blog today.   We’ll start with the teaser and then give you the link to continue…

As you’ve likely heard, renowned author of novels about vampires Anne Rice has boldly declared that she is no longer a Christian. On her Facebook page yesterday she wrote,

Today I quit being a Christian. I’m out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being “Christian” or to being part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to “belong” to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else. … I’m out. In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of …Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.

Continue reading John’s article about Anne here.

Yet Another Translation: Common English Bible (CEB)

Are you ready for another one?  Here’s the home page for the Common English Bible along with a video that doesn’t look scripted at all. (!)  The publisher is Abingdon, and the release date is October 1st for six New Testament editions:  A $5 (US) paperback, a $15 gold-edged duo-tone and four baby gift editions.

Here are some verses with which you’re familiar with emphasis added by the publisher:

GEN 1:1 When God began to create the heavens and the earth—the earth was without shape or form, it was dark over the deep sea, and God’s wind swept over the waters—

MATT 5:5 Happy are people who are humble, because they will inherit the earth.

MATT 6:9-12 Pray like this:
Our Father who is in heaven,
uphold the holiness of your name.
Bring in your kingdom
so that your will is done on earth as it’s done in heaven.
Give us the bread we need for today.
Forgive us for the ways we have wronged you,
just as we also forgive those who have wronged us.

ROM 3: 22-23 God’s righteousness comes through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who have faith in him. There’s no distinction. All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory, but all are treated as righteous freely by his grace, because of a ransom that was paid by Christ Jesus.

II TIM 2:15 Make an effort to present yourself to God as a tried and true worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, but one who interprets the word of truth correctly.

Read more passage comparisons here.

Complaint Filed Against David C. Cook UK

All Phil Groom wanted was the courtesy of a reply from Kingsway Music UK, or its parent company, David C. Cook UK.    A reply, and to have his complaint about price comparisons on the Kingsway website taken seriously.

Phil presides over UK Christian Book Shop Blog; a blog with some similarities to this one, and many differences.   He works in the industry at an academic Christian bookstore.   He is passionate about the industry and has provided us with continuing coverage of the rapid sequence of events that have taken place there in the last few months.

In England, the next step is to escalate the complaint to the UK Office of Fair Trading.

You can catch up on this story at:


Or if you’re familiar with the story so far, check out today’s post:

I really appreciate Phil’s willingness to step up and advocate for stores hurt by the price confusion on the Kingsway site, and also advocating for consumers who are being led to think they are receiving some kind of discounted price.

When suppliers won’t listen, sometimes a government agency like the OFT is all you have.
JULY 29 UPDATE from Phil:

Anyone who has visited the Kingswayshop.com will notice a small victory for us.

Gone are the “Our Price” “RRP” and “You Save” boxes on the pages of most products.

Gone are the bogus “Pre-Order” Discounts.

Replaced simply with a “Web Price” and, nothing else.

Continue reading here.

Meeting the Demands of Print on Demand

The book is 63 pages long.   The actual content begins on page eight.   That means the book is actually 56 pages.

But it’s only printed in the middle of each page.   Over 50% — at the top and bottom — is whitespace.

That means the book is 28 pages, when compared to most other trade size paperbacks.

The Canadian selling price is $23.95 (with a short, 20% discount).   That’s nearly $1 per page.

The book is To Understand Each Other: Classic Wisdom on Marriage by Paul Tournier, published by Westminster John Knox Press.

The customer canceled.

I’m stuck with the book.

But I’m sure you have your own stories to top this one of excessive price demands by publishers of print-on-demand or facsimile reproduction books.    Since many of the publishers are using the same source, Lightning Print International, there should be limits on pricing; although some will argue that in capitalism, the price is the highest the traffic will bear.

And someone will want to post a comment saying I should have found out the page count ahead of time, or taken a deposit.

True.   Or I could just stop doing this at all moving forward.   You don’t get to “order” things in a grocery store, and right now, that retail model is looking increasingly appealing.

Hey, if anyone needs a copy of this book, let me know, okay?

Keith Green 28.28.28 Tribute Wednesday Night



“If your heart takes more pleasure in reading novels, or watching TV, or going to the movies, or talking to friends, rather than just sitting alone with God and embracing Him, sharing His cares and His burdens, weeping and rejoicing with Him, then how are you going to handle forever and ever in His presence? You’d be bored to tears in heaven, if you’re not ecstatic about God now!!” — Keith Green

I was standing in the dining room of a summer camp when the two guys whose job it was to monitor the morning news and do a morning sports report told me, “a gospel singer was killed in a plane crash.” Not just any gospel singer as it turned out. One of the best.

In February 1965, [at age 12] with forty original songs already written by him, Green and his father Harvey signed a five-year contract with Decca Records, with Harvey as business manager. The first song released on disc was The Way I Used to Be in May 1965 …which he had earlier composed and published before signing on with Decca. Upon publication of this song, Green became the youngest person ever to sign with the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP)

Keith had a Jewish heritage and raised in Christian Science. He grew up reading the New Testament and called the mixture “an odd combination” that left him open minded but deeply unsatisfied. ~ Wikipedia

Keith considered all of the spiritual possibilities out there and wrote them on a list for investigation. He put Christianity at the end of the list because, “it couldn’t possibly be that.” The Wikipedia article sums up his life:

Beyond his music, which shook the Christian world and recording industry, Green is best known for his strong devotion to Christian evangelism and challenging others to the same.

I’ll let blogger Dennis Mansfield continue:

The name, Keith Green, may not mean anything to you.

A memorial to him would, therefore seem like a goofy thing to do. “Memorialize WHO?” you might say.

Keith’s life is worthy of a quick read. His death is worthy of a long study…at least the after-effects of his entering into eternity…

…I loved his fierce determinism. He was a no bull man of God. And he would, I am told, COMPLETELY upset evangelical leaders for their fakery. My friend from years ago, Bob Probert, told me of how Keith upset leaders of Calvary Chapel and the Vineyard. Many people across America just DID NOT like Keith.

And he did not seem to care.

That last sentence says more than you think. Keith answered to a different boss.

“I repent of ever having recorded one single song, and ever having performed one concert, if my music, and more importantly, my life has not provoked you into Godly jealousy or to sell out more completely to Jesus!” -Keith Green-

Blogger Melissa Griffin picks up the story,

Keith Green, with his powerful voice, outstanding musical talent, and unquenchable passion for the Lord, inspired countless droves of listeners to give up everything for the unsurpassing joy of knowing Jesus Christ. He followed Jesus for 7 years, released 5 albums in 6 years, and saw thousands come to the Lord through his stirring, yet short-lived ministry. After 28 years of life, Keith unexpectedly departed this world to enter the presence of His Savior. That was 28 years ago.

28 years ago, at age 28, on the 28th day of July.

In a day when believers seem to be trying to please both the world and the Lord (which is an impossible thing), when people are far more concerned about offending their friends than offending God, there is only one answer…Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Him!” — Keith Green

Nilson Sousa, Jr. is only twenty-something. Too young to have been around when Keith’s music was sold in Christian bookstores, or later when it wasn’t sold in Christian bookstores because Keith was giving it all away for whatever price listeners could afford. But a twenty-something offers a fresh perspective:

He is one of my heroes, probably the biggest one of 20 century.

Is that possible? To have bones of a dead prophet calling forth a generation of dead Christians? Yes, It is.

I was blessed to be part of the technical crew the day Keith was a guest on Canada’s national daily Christian television show. I pushed the production team hard to just give Keith a block of time and they allowed him to have more than 20 minutes uninterrupted, a rarity for that program. A quick-thinking floor manager held up a sign with the phone number for the show’s counseling center.

The show ended at 11:00 AM; at 3:00 PM calls were still coming in as people responded to Keith’s message about the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Tomorrow, Wednesday, at 7:30 PM Eastern Standard Time, (6:30 Central) there is a free, live web event remembering Keith Green taking place at www.keithgreen.com which I hope you can spread the news about. Find out more at this 3 1/2 minute video invitation.

Either copy and paste the permalink for this article or just copy and paste the above paragraph [or this and the above one] into an e-mail and send it to any and all you think might be open or interested in hearing more about one of the founders of both today’s contemporary Christian music and the subsequent modern worship movement which followed.

YouTube audio links for those of you who missed the Keith Green era include: The worship song, There is a Redeemer; and the more up-tempo You Put This Love In My Heart. Co-written with Randy Stonehill here’s a link for Love Broke Through, popularized by Phil Keaggy.

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When Not To Exercise Your ‘Rights’ To A Particular Opportunity

This particular item has been 48 hours in coming.   Or maybe a couple of years.   I simply cannot not write this.

This article contains several challenges because the responses are going to include (a) ‘sounds like sour grapes,’ (b) ‘you seem to have a thing about that particular supplier,’ and (c) ‘you think the opportunity should have fallen to your business.’

Let me respond to (a) and (c) by saying that in the event the story had played out differently, I still have no reason to believe that our store would have been chosen; and respond to (b) by saying I think the story loses everything without some specifics.

At issue is a principle. The principle is this:  There are some things that other stores can do better than my store can do them.       In other words, there are opportunities I am prepared to pass on when I believe that the client — not to mention the Kingdom of God — would be better served if I simply passed the opportunity on to someone else.

We do this all the time with VBS.   We’re not a strong VBS store.   I no longer bother to track the suppliers and the various themes.   But 20 minutes to the west of us is a store that has proven itself worthy of handling this particular category.   So unless the customer has something very specific in mind, I simply refer everybody to Durham Christian Books in Bowmanville.

But there are some things I think we do well.   And that’s why it bothers me when stores an hour away take out yellow pages ads in our territory.

Here’s the story. One of our stores is located in the same town as the district office and summer camp location of this area’s branch of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (PAOC).   For the last two or three years, the opportunity of being the supplier for their camp bookstore has fallen to our nearest wholesale supplier, Foundation Distributing (FDI).

I am sure that this was one of those “somebody knew somebody” networking kind of things.    We’ve worked really hard over the last twenty years to build a relationship with the camp and the district office; and we’re there for them 12 months a year, not just the summer.   But you don’t always win every spin of the wheel, and they often go out of their way not to build relationships with local suppliers.

That’s not the issue.

The issue is based on the aforementioned principle:  Who can do the best job of supplying books, Bibles and music that Pentecostals want to read and listen to?

The answer is clear:  Not FDI.

For starters, their Bible sources are all ESV and NLT.   Pentecostals much prefer NKJV and NIV.     And the large metal easel highlighting the John Calvin commentary — not that Charismatics would never read Calvin — was just absolutely hilarious.

There’s a smattering of Karen Kingsbury fiction, but absent is FDI’s own best selling fiction title, the new Francine Rivers’ hardcover.   Actually, FDI has a handful of titles on the Christian Retailing top 100; all conspicuous by their absence.    But the rest of that top 100 is an impossibility for a wholesaler, though for an individual store it would be no problem.

More important however is that, irrespective of the top 100, you have to breathe in PAOC or Assemblies of God culture and know the things that such people want to read.   There were about 2,000 people at a concert there on Saturday and with exaggeration — and totally factoring in the concert artists’ sales would dominate transactions — I could easily do about $7 – $8,000 with a group that size and the right product.    I suspect that they actually did about 5% of that.

You just have to reach a point where you say; “Hey, we’d love to help you out but we can’t do the job as well as ____ or ____ can do it.”   You admit that the publishers you represent don’t represent Charismatic or Pentecostal interests.   You concede that you won’t be “on site” to replenish items as needed.  You confess that your system can’t make allowances for new titles releasing after the camp session has commenced.

Or you can try to own all the marbles.   (A compromise would be to farm out the contract to a retailer with the proviso that there is good representation of FDI merchandise.)

This year, a large one-day conference happened in our city for which we were offered the exclusive book sales rights.   Looking at the conference topic, and talking to people who registered, we realized that there was very little we could offer that would connect with the people who were scheduled to attend.

Instead, another retailer took the opportunity.   Frankly, they probably did no better than we would have, but they are from a small town and probably were grateful for every book they did sell.    We had the staff, we had the product, and we were close enough to incur no other expenses.    But it did not impress us that we should own this particular event.

We put principle over profit and allowed someone else to have the experience.   So I’m willing to allow that this works both ways.

My strongest, personal conviction is that the selection of merchandise available for sale at the Pentecostal Camp on Saturday represented everything you should not do if asked to provide sales at an event for Charismatic or PAOC people.  The wrong titles in the wrong place.  Trust me, if your store got this opportunity, the books and Bibles on display this weekend represent all the titles you would not choose.

It was, as my kids would say, an epic fail.

It’s not just that we could have done a better job.   It’s that our most junior employees could have done a better job with their hands tied behind their backs.

Just because somebody “knows somebody” is no reason to allow them to be the starting quarterback.   You recognize your strengths and limitations and place each opportunity into the hands of those capable of rising to the occasion.

If you are a wholesale publishers’ representative having only about 12% of the available products; then that’s a limitation that precludes any possibility of doing a decent job.

Promote Your Self Published or Small Publisher Christian Book Here

I generally delete comments that have nothing to do with the post topic in question.   And I have been receiving a lot of comments lately from people trying to promote their recently published Christian book that was either self-published, print-on-demand, or done through a small publisher.

So here’s your chance.   From now thru Monday afternoon, I won’t add any new posts to Christian Book Shop Talk.

I only have one request:   Your book has to be in some kind of distribution system so that stores can purchase it.    If that’s not the case, you went with the wrong self-publisher, print-on-demand service, or small publishing house.

So that means at least one of:

  • Ingram/Spring Arbor (clearly showing Christianity as a BISAC category) or,
  • STL, or,
  • CBD (who I realize aren’t really a wholesale distributor, but it gives some identification and credibility to the content of your work.)

If you don’t have one of these, then I doubt most Christian stores will bother trying to track you down.

The comments section is all yours.

Photo Blog Tour of Bookstores

This one is from photographer Mike Goddard.   It looks more like a library, but appears in a set of five pictures of which the other four are definitely retail.  (Click the image to see the rest.)

This next one is from blogger Graham Nunn (click image) and is taken at a store in Buenos Aires:

The next one is from John Abrams, founder of South Mountain Company, who describes one of his favorite bookstores, the one on campus at Stanford University.  (Link on picture)

So lots of big stores in today’s collection.   Hope it inspired more than discouraged!  Have a great weekend.

The Issue of Book Shelf Space

There are a number of times I am tempted to offer a link to or a cut/paste of a story that comes under the “gloom and doom” category of story indicating overall trends of brick and mortar bookstores closing.

That certainly doesn’t offer much encouragement.

The thing I liked about this story, is that it gets at the heart of another issue; the fact that many booksellers are reassigning shelf space to other types of merchandise.   In other words, while the number of stores is certainly declining, the number of linear feet of shelving available to authors in existing stores is declining as well.

It is certainly something for the Christian bookstore owner to consider, although we also to have to bear in mind our core mission has always involved print products.

But maybe that notion needs to be reexamined as well.

Saving Christian Retail

Nearly two years ago, in the middle of the whole R. G. Mitchell saga, Fazal Karim, Jr., publisher of Toronto’s Christian Herald newspaper ran a sidebar piece which we reprinted here containing a variety of thoughts on some radical changes that could be made to make Christian retail strong.

I always appreciate it when people outside of our stores feel a sense of  ‘ownership’ over the bookstore in their community, and I especially appreciate it when someone from another industry takes the time to lend some input to ours.

The Christian bookstore industry — like the local church — is like a big ship that takes a long time to steer in a new direction.   I can’t say that much of what Fazal wrote has been taken to heart by any of us, but his words were challenging and need to be repeated…

Ideas for saving Christian Retail

Become a Destination
Walmart has haircuts, an optical centre and McDonalds. Costco has a pharmacy and photo centre. Ikea has a restaurant. The Christian Retailer can no longer stand alone. To be effective, Christian entrepreneurs will need to partner with each other to create a destination for believers to meet, shop and learn.
Suitable partners for Christian Bookstores include:
• A travel services company specializing in religious travel,
• An evangelical Christian credit union,
• A telecommunications services company, (offering phone, filtered internet & Christian TV)
• An admissions office for the local Christian college
• Faith-Focused Business services   (such as FaithLife Financial, counseling etc.)
• An instore cafe, featuring coffeehouse food & beverages
(& juice options for those who don’t ingest caffeine)

Go Digital
It is a stunning fact that absolutely no Christian retailers in the Greater Toronto Area sell the iPod. Or most of its 12 trillion accessories. Christian retailers should not only carry digital music devices, but music should be burned to CD and artwork printed on-site. While this depends largely on the big music labels granting the rights, if there is a future for music sales at Christian retail, this is likely it. On-Demand CD sales will eliminate shipping & receiving costs and issues with managing inventory. Customers leaving without the CD they came for will become a thing of the past.

Go Digital, Part Two
Print-on-Demand is fairly new technology, but may be an answer to stocking older titles. Machines like the Expresso Book Machine (www.ondemandbooks.com) cost around $50,000 and can hold more than 200,000 books in memory. Some can print and bind as many as 20 books per hour. Instant gratification for customers that internet stores can’t match.

Go Digital, Part Three
A mass-market eBook counterpart to music’s iPod is coming.
Be ready for it this time.

Embrace Music

No, not those shiny plastic discs. Real Music. Instruments like pianos, drums and guitars, along with the sale and rental of sound system gear are a basic need for Christian churches and ministries. Partner with others to meet that need.

Support Home-schooling

Thousands of parents, many of them Christian, have concerns about the effectiveness and direction of public schools and have embraced the idea of home-schooling their children. Christian bookstores can become a clearinghouse for quality curriculum and textbooks to meet this growing need, as well as offer a base of support & networking for these families.

Build Community (and traffic) with in-store events

Forget the high gas prices and pricey hotel bills. In-store events with big name authors and music artists don’t have to break the bank anymore. Use internet webcasting and a Community Theatre to offer regular “in-store” appearances to link authors and artists with those who enjoy their work. Bookstore patrons will get to ask questions and discuss spiritual themes, and also network with others in their community.

Build Community, Part Two

Use the building’s Community Theatre (see above) to also host Christian movie showings, college lectures, product re-lease events, seminars, clean comedy nights, and mini-concerts. Rent the space out to churches on Sundays.

Reviews

  • I actually took two days at Thinking Out Loud to cover my reactions to the book Christians are Hate-Filled Hypocrites – and Other Lies You’ve Been Told by Bradley Wright (Bethany House).    It will mostly interest pastors and church leaders, so it may not make your must-carry list, but be aware of the title, and read the reviews here and here.  You might also want to buy a copy for yourself because if your store attracts Evangelicals, it tells you a lot about your customers.
  • Today on my personal blog I also finally got to review the BASIC: Fear God DVD by Francis Chan (David C. Cook).   I mentioned here a few days ago that it was produced by the same people who did NOOMA, and did the review on that basis, comparing similarities and differences.
  • A friend sent me this Denver Seminary review of Jim Belcher’s Book Deep Church. A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional (IVP) that breaks down the discussion into seven core points.
  • I’m currently reading the novel Rooms by James L. Rubart (B&H) which is a book I believe is going to quietly build a following.   One endorsement says, “If Frank Peretti had written The Shack you might come close to having a book as great as Rooms…”  Not sure how Peretti would feel about his best only being able to “come close,” but that’s another subject.   I started this early today and I’m only 75 pages in, but I think you should consider promoting this book in your stores — especially to male readers who will connect with the protagonist’s connection to a computer software company.  And also Shack readers.
  • All four of the above are available from David C. Cook in Canada, but honestly, I’m not on their payroll.   (A nice work-at-home project would fit well, though…)  Here; I’ll prove it:
  • Augsburg Fortress Canada has a giftware special running until July 31st on the new Abbey Press catalog.   While some of the newer Abbey pieces seem to identify more strongly with the Abbey’s Roman Catholic roots, there is no denying that many other pieces from Abbey produce very quick turnover in more Evangelical Christian bookstores.
  • We switched our own store over to chip-card-reading point of sale equipment yesterday.   Our bank is telling us we have too many settlement lines per month and it’s going to kill our service fees.   For that reason we’re actually considering dropping MasterCard.   Your opinions are always helpful.
  • David, the young man we were praying for has made a very encouraging turnaround in the last few hours.   For those of you who prayed, thank you on behalf of the family.

Diet With Roots in Old Testament Aids in Epilepsy Healing

The book Good Morning, Beautiful by Paulette George is, based on the video I watched, quite a story.   Distributed by Ambassador Emerald Publishing, this March 2010 title may be one you missed.

I wanted to include the Animoto video here, but it’s not possible; so you need to click this link.   Again, please don’t miss this short book trailer.

Otherwise, here is the publisher marketing:

At two-and-a-half, Christina was autistic. She didn’t speak and had the cognitive ability of an infant. With one-hundred seizures a day, her life was being ripped away by a relentless villain: epilepsy. When doctors gave up, we hung on to hope and became her advocates, researching, praying and believing for a miracle.

A special diet, with roots in scripture, became the first miracle. Christina proved nothing is impossible when she repeated words to a song, Good Morning Beautiful. Extremely delayed, it was a huge milestone. Her story caught the attention of the national recording artist who recorded the song and prior to brain surgery, people around the world began praying for her.

Now seizure and autism free, therapists cite services are no longer needed as Christina’s file doesn’t match the patient. She made honor roll and still sings Good Morning, Beautiful.

I’ve recommended the author for a fall interview on the Drew Marshall show, as I think others might be helped by this story.

Sidenote:  Our own son experienced an almost 24-hour turnaround in his battle with Asperger’s Syndrome from a vitamin supplement called DMG.    While it doesn’t work like that for everyone, it makes me a believer in stories like this.   For those reading this on that basis, it’s important to remember that the diet only paved the way for the surgery that healed Christina; it wasn’t the only factor in who she is today.