Archive for December, 2010

George Beverly Shea To Receive Lifetime Achievement Grammy

From Christian Telegraph:

“America’s Beloved Gospel Singer” and longtime Billy Graham Crusade soloist George Beverly Shea received an early Christmas present this year, learning last week that The Recording Academy has decided to honor him with a Lifetime Achievement Award in conjunction with the 2011 GRAMMY Awards, reports Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST Ministries.

“I was surprised to receive the call from The Recording Academy president before Christmas and am honored for the recognition,” Shea said. “The music has been for God’s glory.”

According to a news release from A. Larry Ross Communications, Shea, who will turn 102 years-old the week before receiving this honor, is among the oldest living persons to be honored by The Recording Academy. He is still performing publicly, having sung at several Christmas concerts near his home in Asheville, N.C.

Last month, he joined longtime colleagues Billy Graham and Cliff Barrows at an event in Charlotte celebrating the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

Over his musical and ministry career spanning more than 80 years, Shea has produced more than 70 albums of hymns, including nine CDs, with RCA and Word Records. He has already received ten nominations and one Grammy Award (1965) from The Recording Academy.

Shea’s 2011 Special Merit Award co-recipients are Julie Andrews, Roy Haynes, the Juilliard String Quartet, the Kingston Trio, Dolly Parton and the Ramones. According to The Recording Academy’s website (, the Lifetime Achievement Award honors lifelong artistic contributions to the recording medium, and is determined by vote of The Recording Academy’s National Board of Trustees.

“It is a great honor to recognize and celebrate such a distinguished and dynamic group of honorees who have been the creators of such timeless art,” said Recording Academy President/CEO Neil Portnow. “These influential performers and brilliant innovators have been of great inspiration to our culture and industry. Their legendary work has left a lasting impression and will continue to influence generations to come.”

The award recipients will be honored at a special invitation-only ceremony during GRAMMY Week on Feb. 12, 2011, and a formal acknowledgment will be made during the 53rd Annual GRAMMY Awards telecast, which will be broadcast live on Sunday, Feb. 13, 2011, at 8 p.m. ET/PT on the CBS Television Network.

Christian Telegraph – December 29/10


Our End of Year Chart

It had been awhile since we produced a chart reflecting sales at the local level at our two stores.    As I began this task on Tuesday, I noticed a few things:

  • We had some strong contenders this year, and could have easily done a Top 50 chart instead of a Top 40.   I was sorry to see some recurring titles like Bruxy Cavey’s End of Religion and Shane Claiborne’s The Irresistible Revolution not quite make the list.  (We should have a section for authors with wild hair styles.)
  • There were a few titles where the data skewed because of large orders by single customers, but not as many as in other charts.   We make an adjustment for those titles, but this year those titles made the chart anyway.
  • If you don’t think ITPEs matter check out #s 7, 11, 17, 19, 20, 23, 29, 30, 31, and 37 … all paperbacks in Canada.  Number 4 is now ITPE, but got to its position on the basis of the clothbound edition.
  • Not a single children’s or youth title this time.   Not one.
  • A weaker showing by fiction.  Especially noticed the absence of Wanda Brunstetter on this chart for the first time.
  • There were no local authors this time around.   First time I can remember that in many years.   We do support local authors.   There may have been a data issue with the one that made the best showing An Unlikely Saint by Allan Connor (Spring Arbor/Pleasant Word); the chart was more reflective of the last half of the year.
  • For that reason, the chart was more consistent with national charts I’ve seen.
  • I think #34 is an error; it was a previous Tim Keller title that earned that position.  Generous Justice released more recently.
  • Doing the STL catalog drew attention to the two “Stories of Faith and Courage” titles which are seen here. (16 & 40.)

The Lost Art of Browsing Revisited

This year I decided to go the extra mile and work the sales floor during some shifts alongside other staff members. As a result I’m a bit crashed out and stressed out. But just to show you that you’re not forgotten, here’s a re-post from March, 2009…

screech-racksScreech. (Pause.) Screech. (Pause.) Screech. Screech. (Longer pause.)

I never gave much thought to those screeches — the sound of the hangers as women browse through the garments on the racks — until I had been married for awhile. Men quickly run their hands over a mixed rack of clothing, but don’t feel the need to get a “top to bottom” view of the item. Ergo, no screeching sound. Women cause the hangers to screech on the rack.

I’ve been thinking a lot about browsing lately. It’s the thing that sets our stores apart from internet shopping. The ability to scan the shelves; pick out a few prospects, crack the pages open and more carefully consider a purchase.

The problem is, nobody has the time. Customers breeze in and out under so much time pressure that they can’t take a few extra minutes to see what was to the left and to the right of their target title. They are so focused on the one title, or one author, or one author that they came in for; that the rest of the store is an out-of-focus blur.

Or — and this amazes me totally — they leave their car running. Or they turn off the car but tell me there’s a small child inside. Or ice cream melting. Really Big Hurry (RBH) customers. It makes me wonder why we have all that extra inventory.

Today I had an actual browser. We have an instant-rewards program whereby if you buy five sale books or five regular priced books, you get one free in that category (red tags or white tags.) She had a number of things she was considering, and was determined to leave with a free book. I was more than happy to play the game with her.

Everyone else today was in a hurry. Too big a hurry for the good of our store. I call them SPF customers. Single Product Focus. Oh well, at least they know what they want, even if it doesn’t make sense; like the intensely Pentecostal woman who only buys Norman Vincent Peale (who, for the record, I don’t carry in stock.)

If only someone would do something to try to draw these fragmented customer needs into other purchases. We could call it “branding…” 😉 At least we’d see some repeat business, albeit many months down the road.

So how do you turn SPF customers and RBH customers into browsers?

To My Suppliers: 364 Days’ Notice

Thanks for all the little incentive items, guys; but if you want to really hit a home run next Christmas, here’s the thing that will do it:   Every supplier who does electronic invoices, credit notes and statements should send each participating account a gift card valid for a black ink toner cartridge at Staples or Office Max.   Seriously.   Or at least a package of copy paper.

Best Book Lists Proliferate on Blogs

December 22, 2010 2 comments

At least most people have heard of Tim Challies.   So they’re more inclined to take his Top Books of 2010 list more seriously.   It’s also been re-blogged by others a few times.

But who are the bloggers behind the INSPY’s??   I’ve spent several years immersed in the Christian blogosphere, and I’ve never seen the names of those listed as its advisory board, not even on someone else’s blogroll.  But they got their 15 minutes of fame in Publisher’s Weekly.

So… since most people won’t read it on their blogs, here are their “awards” for 2010…


The INSPY Advisory Board is pleased to announced that the following books have been awarded the inaugural INSPYs in their categories. The INSPYs were created by bloggers to discover and highlight the very best in literature that grapples with expressions of the Christian faith.

Crossing Oceans by Gina Holmes, General & Literary Fiction
Crossing Oceans focuses on issues we must all face, such as life, death, relationships, and the choices we make when faced with our mortality. Through her protagonist, Genevieve “Jenny” Lucas, Holmes addresses these through Jenny’s final months of battling terminal cancer. Jenny makes difficult choices about her daughter’s future, and her own care and relationships. In the midst of this difficulty, Holmes places the message of faith very subtly throughout the narrative. She leaves her characters flawed and human, which makes them extremely relatable.

Evolving in Monkey Town by Rachel Held Evans, Creative Nonfiction
Evans’ Evolving in Monkey Town chronicles the author’s move from complete acceptance of the faith of her childhood, through a desolate period of questioning, arriving at a renewed conviction about the love of God. Interweaving her own tale with the views of people she meets, Evans juxtaposes all of the voices about God in her life. Evans’ honesty in telling her faith journey impressed us along with how much her love of the Lord imbued the entire narrative.

She Walks in Beauty by Siri Mitchell, Historical Fiction
With carefully placed ephemera, a succinct sense of verisimilitude, in-depth characterization and a challenging historical context, She Walks in Beauty by Siri Mitchell provides a moving look at the tarnished edge of America’s Gilded Age. While aligning with the subtle thematic thread that ties Mitchell’s previous historical novels together, She Walks in Beauty stands sufficiently on its own. She Walks in Beauty holds the widest appeal to readers of the CBA market and beyond. A steadfast faith is embedded into the plot seamlessly and not, instead, centered out as a forceful plot device. The novel’s inspirational resonance will reach Christian and non-Christian readers alike.

The Knight by Steven James, Thriller/Suspense/Crime Fiction
How does one (who has no Christian reference points) make that first step toward the Lord? Where does that first question about spirituality come from? How does the author make it believable? Steven James makes it believable. This question encapsulates many of the judges’ thoughts about Patrick Bowers as he struggles to solve a series of grizzly crimes in the INSPY Award winner for the Thriller/Suspense/Crime Fiction category. The literary skill employed by James creates a story that steals the reader’s sleep while also stealing their breath. Creating an unforgettable set of characters who face an unimaginable and escalating series of terrifying crimes, James captures both the imagination and heart of the reader as he spins his tale.

Green by Ted Dekker, Speculative Fiction
Green was an excellent addition to the short list, with lots of emotion, lots of plot, and deep characters. The allegory is strong throughout, with the juxtaposition of past/present and far future showing the importance and far-reaching consequences of the characters lives. Dekker did a fantastic job with character development, plot development and faith. The brilliance of Green is the fact that it is both the beginning and the end of the series. While discussions of faith in literature are not new, Dekker created a different way to start/finish a series. Who else has done that with a series? He did something completely unexpected with the ending of his book, while tackling the Christian faith from a different angle.

Plain Paradise by Beth Wiseman, Amish Fiction
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God,” Romans 12:2. Plain Paradise is perfect for people who have never read Amish fiction before. The story line was interesting and it was easy to get involved with the characters. This book dealt with subject matter not normally found in Amish fiction, which made it a refreshing change. Wiseman explains the Amish culture without it being in your face, while being informative at the same time. This book shows that the Amish live their faith in God by example instead of simply ministering and witnessing to others. While the latter things are important, they remain separate from the English so their opportunities for ministering and witnessing to non-Amish are almost non-existent. This book is a reminder that our goal as Christians should be to minister and witness to the lost, but not everyone will take the time to listen to a sermon or a testimony. We should always be mindful that our light is shining, and that our lives are a living example of God’s grace and love.

Sons of Thunder by Susan May Warren, Romance/Romantic Suspense
INSPY Award winning novels are books that possess exceptional literary qualities and respectfully grapple with some element of the Christian faith. The Romance/Romantic Suspense category was filled with outstanding choices and those of us on the panel found it a very difficult category to judge. We debated right down to the wire, but we’re confident we made the right decision. Sons of Thunder by Susan May Warren is an epic story that spans a couple decades and takes place on several continents. The setting of this one swept us away. Warren took us from the Greek Isles to Prohibition-era Chicago, and back again, with enough description to make us feel like we’d lived in both places. She filled the book with rich detail, multi-layered characters, and plot twists we never saw coming. For these reasons, we feel Sons of Thunder deserves the 2010 INSPY Award for Romance/Romantic Suspense.

Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr, Young Adult Fiction
Once Was Lost authentically portrays Sam, a pastor’s daughter, grappling with her faith in the midst of personal upheaval and uncertainty. The pressures to be perfect that Sam and her parents experience and the expectations of judgmental church members are depicted well, and this story demonstrates that pastors and their families are just like many others, struggling to deal with unexpected tragedy and unfathomable pain and, at times, questioning God’s presence in the midst of suffering. Sam’s sadness and confusion, as she misses her mom and wrestles with her own faith and what she believes, is palpable. Teens will relate to this excellent and very real book that goes beyond a surface-level exploration of what it means to follow God.


You might also enjoy Josh Tandy’s list;  or Doug Wolter’s; or this Top Ten list by Greg Breazeale.

Visa Canada’s Introduction of Visa Debit and Why You Should Be Concerned

December 20, 2010 1 comment

I had a rather strange experience on Sunday.

We were invited to an after-church thing in someone’s home.   I understood the husband to be pursuing full time ministry, but it turned out that he actually works full time for VISA Canada.   When I pressed him about what he does, he talked about developing new markets, in particular the “touch” cards for small purchases, and the development of VISA Debit.

I told him upfront that I’m an active, paying member of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) which is not going to accept the idea of paying a percentage on debit sales — which are at an unusually high rate in Canada compared to most other companies — without some kicking and screaming.

He continued on that the non-profit Interac system was as good as dead, and that the banks would not continue to support it when there was more money to be had in taking percentages instead of transaction fees.   He seemed to revel in this.   I told him that this is just another nail in the coffin for medium sized businesses.

I don’t think he got that.   I sensed that “Quit yer whining” attitude and backed off.   I would like to have gone off in another room with him, and have him allow me 3-5 minutes of his time to explain why this is a hit that we simply can’t afford to take.   I’m not sure it would have done any good.

From that point on — about two hours — I gotta say that I had a hard time accepting this man’s hospitality.   The longer I sat there, the more annoyed at him I was getting.    I think he sensed that, too.  At the first sign of opportunity, we got our coats and bolted for the door.

So why does it matter, anyway?

While some people still pay by cash, and there is a high percentage of credit payment at Christmas, most of our business is currently transacted by debit/ATM cards.    Canadian consumers are sufficiently hooked, and now, like the proverbial fish,  we’re about to be reeled in.

In a bookstore environment, 60% of the price of a book is cost, and 40% is dealer margin.   Out of that 40% comes heat, electricity, rent, telephone, internet, salaries, insurance, advertising, etc.; with a net profit amounting to — in most cases — between 8% and 4% of revenues; with the average for medium sized stores being around 6%.

Right now debit transaction fees are negligible.   If that were to change to 2% — a number that’s high, but there are some stores paying higher rates for any reason their bank or merchant services provider wants to think up — that 2% increase would wipe out one-third of their 6% if most transactions are debit.

In other words, that 2% has the potential to wipe out ONE THIRD of their annual profit.  (And if you say the charges would only be 1.5%, that’s still one quarter of available profit margin.)

Now I recognize the 2% figure is a bit high (for now, anyway) but remember why some stores pay up to 2% for MasterCard and VISA transactions now:  It’s because those cards are providing credit to your customers.   They are the credit department that stores once had as a giant headache and giant risk, but no longer have to worry about.   Customers can buy now and pay later at no risk to the retailer, and for that reason retailers are happy to pay a fee for that service.   Decades ago, even giant retailers like Eaton’s and Sears ceded their credit department to the major credit cards.

What are retailers getting for debit transactions?  Everything and nothing.  By comparison, everything the same as the above, but for the difference that it’s just a transaction. Nothing more.   Money moving from account A to account B in a microsecond.  No credit services provided.  And it thereby should be subject to a flat rate transaction fee that has nothing to do with the size of the item(s) being purchased.

That’s a little bit of history the banks do NOT want you to recall.   They want you to see debit and credit transactions as equal-valued services, subject to percentage fees.   A transaction is a transaction, right?

Talk about revisionist history.

I know this kind of line is a bit over-worked, but I don’t know how a person can be a Christian and support the injustice of this.   I guess if that’s how you pay your mortgage and put food on the table, you’re inclined to look the other way.

There are two things stores can do right now to stem the tide of more big banks wiping out more small and medium sized businesses — and the incentive for people to start them.

One is you can join organizations like CFIB in their fight to keep small and medium sized business viable in Canada.

Second, you can simply refuse to accept the new, red-coloured, CIBC VISA Advantage debit card.   Just tell your customers you won’t take them; not because they’re not being processed currently by Interac, but because you want to vote against VISA’s entry into the debit business.

Politely ask the customer if they have another card they might use.

UPDATE:  CBC-TV Report on this issue aired Sunday night.

The Customer Is Not Always Right

Here’s another post from…

His Witnesses Will Need A Protection Program

Bookstore | Indiana, USA
(For legal reasons, our store cannot offer any discounts on books by a certain publisher.)

Customer: “I’d like to use this coupon on my order, please.”

Me: “Oh, I’m sorry. Your order is nothing but books by [publishers], and we can’t accept the coupon on them.”

Customer: “Excuse me?”

Me: “See, it says right here in the fine print, ‘Not valid on any [publisher’s] products’.”

Customer: “Well I know that! But you need to give me the discount anyway!”

Me: “It’s against store policy. I can’t give you a discount on these books.”

Customer: “Look, I’m using these books to witness to people who don’t know the Lord. You should give me a discount because I’m giving them to people who need them!”

Me: “There is nothing I can do about that. I don’t set the prices or the policies.”

Customer: “If [bookstore] really does claim to be a Christian business, then they should give discounts to people who buy stuff to witness to other people! You’re making me waste the Lord’s money!”

Maybe you’ve heard that line before.   But legal reasons?   I’d love to know what publisher it is who uses legal force in Indiana to prevent their materials from being discounted.   I mean, they’re not selling Wii systems, right?   Anyone know what publisher this would be referring to???

Methinks We’re All Getting Too Sophisticated With Video Production

I’m not sure there’s enough here to make me want to buy this book, even though I would normally find the topic interesting.    But I now understand fully why movie makers don’t shoot with natural light on partly cloudy days.

A Note To Booksellers and Everyone Else from Pete Wilson

Okay, he actually wrote it for everyone else.  This was posted this week at Pete’s blog, Without Wax

I was out with a friend for lunch last week when someone who had just finished reading Plan B approached me. She told me a little about her own “Plan B” and what was currently going on in her life. We exchanged thoughts and as she walked off my friend turned to me and asked, “Are you getting sick of that yet?”

“Sick of what?” I replied.

“Everyone in the world sharing their shattered dreams, disappointments and hurts with you,” he said.

I thought for a moment and simply responded, “Not at all.”

I think when you write a book called Plan B you kind of expect it. I can’t tell you what an honor it’s been over the past eight months to hear your stories. Whether you shared it in person, in the comments of a blog post, or via email I appreciate your bravery, honesty, and desire for healing in your life.

I got word last week that in addition to the Spanish translation it will now be translated into Korean as well!!!  I’m so excited about seeing even more people be impacted by the message of this book and it couldn’t have happened without your continued support.

As we go into these next couple weeks before Christmas, I want to ask you to think about who in your life might benefit from the message of this book. While Christmas is so exciting for many of us, there are also so many people hurting this time of year. For many, Christmas is a painful reminder that their lives are not turning out the way they had hoped. Would you consider giving your book away to them? If you don’t want to give yours away would you consider purchasing a copy for them?

I bet there’s at least one person in your life who desperately needs to know that God is most powerfully present even when He seems most apparently absent.

~Pete Wilson, Cross Point Church, Nashville TN

ESV Study Bible Going on a Diet

Users of the ESV Study Bible have told the publisher it needs to lose weight.   But unlike the personal size editions of the NIV Study Bible or the NLT Life Application Bible, the trimmed down ESV Study will drop some of its extra content in the process.

Check it out on the Crossway Publishing Blog, and don’t miss comments # 10 and # 11 where a reader suggests a “purple letter edition” with words of Christ in a royal color.   (Honestly, you couldn’t make this stuff up if you tried.)

The new version is supposedly releasing in January, though multiple checks of the Ingram database failed to locate the listing.

It Never Ceases to Amaze Me

Just now a customer walked up to the counter with a set of buy-5-get-1-free coupons, and tried to redeem it for Our Daily Bread: Favorite Hymns of the Season; a boxed set retailing for $37.99.

Thankfully, my sales clerk decided to ask first.

The customer insisted since it had a coupon on it, it was eligible to be a free item.

Categories: Uncategorized

CBC News Trumpets Book E-Readers

Canada’s national newscast devoted a couple of minutes to the growth of e-book devices on Tuesday night.

Here’s the link to the report. (Report follows commercials, if it plays at all; website is most unreliable.)

On the live telecast, Peter Mansbridge concluded with these statistics on U.S. sales of e-books from Forrester Research:

2009 – $ 300 million

2010 – $ 966 million

2015 – $ 2.8 billion (projected)