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Archive for February, 2011

In-Store Performance Area Requires Licensing

February 28, 2011 1 comment

A growing trend in medium- to large-sized Christian bookstores combines a food-service area with a small stage to create a coffee house atmosphere with live musicians.

But be careful. It’s possible that the copyright police may be on your tail if you haven’t taken the time to license your premises for “public performance” of copyrighted music, and unless you’re planning nothing more than a weekly hymn sing, most of the music is copyrighted. Furthermore, you may not be entirely safe if you are only using local artists performing their own songs; the exemption they may grant you verbally may not be theirs to give.

We heard a story a few months ago about a business that changed hands, only to have the new owners’ insurance company demand that that they cease all live music performances until they got proper licensing. That’s a new one.

Having worked in radio and television, but not in “live” situations, I would assume that this involves keeping a log of the songs performed and the songwriters involved, and filing that information on a frequent basis. You might also be required to have publisher information.

Your local musicians association might be able to help you, but that opens another can of worms, the use of non-union musicians. So that might not be your best route for information that is really about songwriter royalties. Better to try a performing rights organization, such as ASCAP in the US, SNOCAN in Canada, or PRO in the UK.

Nobody said it was going to be easy, right? But take heart if you only do one or two things like this annually, there are often single-event licenses available for infrequent users.

Competition Knows No Boundaries

February 25, 2011 3 comments

I blame the drug stores.

I don’t blame them for having soda fountains. At one time, Pepsi was thought to have medicinal benefits. But I do blame them for having gift displays, greeting cards and selections of boxed chocolates.

And perfume. Lots of perfume. Lots of cosmetics. Because there’s money in it; and in some drug superstores, the “staff” are actually having their salaries paid for by the cosmetics companies themselves.

And soap, paper towels and what grocery stores call the HABA section, Health And Beauty Aids. Because there’s money in it.

But the pharmacist really only needs the back 10% of the store to exist. And in my little town there is actually a drug store that just dispenses drugs, and it’s a huge hit. Five pharmacists on duty at all times, and you don’t have to trip over the toilet paper display, the magazines or small appliances to get to meet with them.

Which brings us to…

…I just leave this with you to ponder over the weekend:

When you visit the consumer website of Dayspring — the people who sell us our boxed cards, counter cards, and giftware — and click the Bestseller tab, you can purchase the book Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. Seriously. The Thomas Nelson edition, not some special Dayspring repackage.

And you — well, consumers, that is — can buy it for only $9.99; a full 33.3% discount off the $14.99 U.S. list price.

This is not some nameless, faceless online company whose name starts with “A.” This is Dayspring, one of your suppliers, not content to simply direct-sell their own products, marketing Thomas Nelson Books to your customers at a price you cannot match.

And the reason for this would be?

Using Technology With Biblical Discernment

February 24, 2011 2 comments

It’s not every day I get to introduce a fellow-Canadian author who is signed with Christian publishing giant Zondervan, yet here we are beginning the year with two authors from my home province no less: Ann Voskamp‘s One Thousand Gifts, which is already in stores and doing extremely well, and the one we’re introducing today, Canada’s blogger-extraordinaire Tim Challies.  In this case, Tim, who also has his own self-publishing company, is actually a regular reader of this blog as well.

This is actually Tim’s second book that I’m aware of, and is scheduled to release in April.  The title is: The Next Story: Life and Faith After the Digital Explosion, in hardcover at $19.99 U.S.  Here’s the promotional video, which is probably the first I’ve seen to feature a shot of the author taking a shower. Guess you do what ya gotta do, Tim. [Note: see comments!] This title should do exceptionally well in any stores having a strong Christian Reformed customer base, the community in which the author is best known, but there will also be strong name-recognition if you have customers who are active in the Christian blogosphere.  The subject matter is similar to another Zondervan title, Flickering Pixels, but I’m quite sure the authors are coming at this from somewhat different directions.

Publisher marketing:

Acknowledging that technology is everywhere, an inescapable aspect of our lives, author and blogger Tim Challies provides guidance and direction for readers who struggle with the changes brought about by the digital revolution. He helps readers understand why digital technology exists and how a Christian can use new technologies with biblical discernment.

Albert Mohler Defends Bookstores as “The Marketplace of Ideas”

February 23, 2011 1 comment

Dr. Albert Mohler, Jr., the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a man almost worshiped by conservative Evangelicals and Reformers has rushed to the defense of bookstores in the wake of the Borders bankruptcy filing last week.

In a must-read article that is both passionate and balanced, he makes a case for the survival of local stores dedicated to literature.  Not since John Stackhouse’s piece in 2009 have we seen an article so worthy of forwarding to local churches who have abdicated their responsibility to support a Christian bookstore in their community.

One of the article’s highlights is that he finds an unlikely ally in the CEO of a company producing e-books:

Mark Coker, chief executive of Smashwords Inc., an e-book company, told the Journal that when the physical space on the shelves of bookstores disappears, “it’s gone forever.” He added: “If you remove books from our towns and villages and malls, there will be less opportunity for the serendipitous discovery of books. And that will make it tougher to sell books.”

Coker obviously feels a need for the two types of retail to co-exist.  But not everyone sees that:

Seth Godin, a business writer, told the Journal that the travail of Borders is, as the paper reports, “the penultimate step in the demise of bookstores in general.”

But Mohler is not convinced. Some of his arguments may seem old-school to people who have embraced the new technology — he speaks of being able to “thumb the table of contents” in print books, implying that this is impossible with an e-reader. But the passion with he writes overcomes this:

The general wisdom seems to be that the bookstore will go the way of the record store and the video rental outlet. The bookstore may have been an important cultural asset in years past, many argue, but it has little place in a world of e-readers, online sales, and mega retailers like WalMart that deep-discount bestsellers.

Some go further and suggest that the demise of the bookstore is a signal of the demise of the book itself, at least as a printed product with pages between covers. That dystopian prophecy is almost surely overblown, but the book’s survival in printed form does depend, to a considerable extent, upon the survival of bookstores.

The reason for this is simple. Printed books are physical objects that cry out to be handled even before they are read. The physicality of the book is important to the experience of the book itself. The arrangement and order of the words is supreme, but the appearance of the book and the feel of the book in the hand are also part of the reading experience.

I would encourage everyone today who is dropping by Christian Book Shop Talk to do two things:

  1. Read the article in its entirety; it will take you just a couple of minutes.
  2. Copy and past the URL or the article itself and forward it to someone in your community who you feel needs to read it.

The marketplace of ideas must, in some form, survive.

Authors Don’t Control Their Book Titles?

It’s a known fact that if you write an article for the local newspaper, you don’t get to choose your article’s headline. But does this extend to authors and book titles?

Christian musician and popular blogger Shaun Groves thinks that the title of two popular books from the last year, Radical by David Platt and Crazy Love by Francis Chan are examples of sensationalizing a title in order to draw readers to purchase the books.  But he feels the titles are also totally misleading.

He says that living the Christian life the way the New Testament teaches is neither radical nor crazy, but an example of what might be called, to borrow the title of a much older book, the normal Christian life.

Was it a publisher then, a marketer maybe, who foisted those labels on their words…and their life?

Unfortunate. Such labels lend credence to the lie we all tell ourselves: I’m not like them.

But we are like them, you and I. Forgetting this leads to an abnormal Christian life – Radically crazily sadly misinformed.

I see his point.  Those titles, by definition, make living the life described in their pages outside my reach. But it is possible to live that life. You and I.

Read more at Neither Radical Nor Crazy.

Strang Communications Suing Benny Hinn

February 21, 2011 2 comments

The Orlando Sentinel and other newspapers are reporting that Strang Communications, citing a morality clause in its contract with Benny Hinn, wants $250,000 of its $300,000 advance for the book Blood on the Sand returned to the company in the wake of Hinn’s involvement with Paula White and cancellation of appearances, such as one on The 700 Club, to promote the title.

For the story and some additonal commentary, I recommend you read Strang Goes Stange at the blog Bene Diction Blogs On

The Peril of Commercial Leases

February 19, 2011 4 comments

As a Christian, I believe I am called to follow the highest moral ethical standard. This extends to all areas of my business.

I live in a world where others do not believe as I. Still, I believe our faith compels us to “do justice and to love mercy” and that extends to supporting those who — even if they don’t know Jesus — share a high standard of ethics, and to, if necessary, take a stand against those who do not.

My landlord does not share my view of what is “right” ethically or morally.  He subscribes to the rather dominant view in our world that one should get all they can, regardless of who they have to step on to get there. This view has brought him all of the creature comforts you can imagine. I was reminded of this recently when he parked his Jaguar sideways across three parking spaces in front of the building. Life is good.

His lease includes the clause that is standard in most commercial leases — because no one ever thinks this through or speaks out — that leaves the tenant responsible for all building repairs, including the potentially-expensive heating, ventilation and air-condition (HVAC) system.  In our case, the potential expense is huge because this particular system is no longer manufactured. We found this out two days after taking possession.  Our electrician gave us an estimate of $5,000.  Last week, another electrician gave us a $4,500 estimate. Still too much for us to bear.

Which of you, if you knew about it, would allow someone in your church to rent a residential apartment that included such a clause? Imagine poor Mrs. Smith being forced to pay for new windows for her one-bedroom unit on the fourth floor.  Maybe in Mexico.  Or some third world country. Yet this is so common in commercial leases. There are no tenant rights. All’s fair when renting commercial space.

So suppose you have a tenant who incurs such a liability? And then, six months later their business ceases. (Possibly because of the huge un-budgeted expense.) They walk away leaving the landlord with a $5,000 leasehold improvement and a huge smirk on his face.

And yet, this is the way the system works.

Not for this gray duck.

We’re walking out and shutting down our business.  We have no other option. This week I suggested to a church staff member, “What if a number of local churches pledged to create a ‘war chest’ for us so that we could continue to operate knowing that we would not be brought down by such an expense?”

He just laughed at me. With two exceptions, the local churches in our community really don’t give a damn.

My lawyer told me that most independent business people — many of which are mom and pop operations — sign leases like this because they don’t truly understand how the various clauses of the lease could affect them and their business directly. He took me through another lease — which he described as “the most one-sided commercial document I have ever seen” — and basically said “If this happens…” naming a set of very plausible circumstances; “then this is what your responsibilities are.”

Mind you, this particular document isn’t oblique on this point; the responsibility isn’t masked by legalese. We buy him a new furnace system and he sits in his comfortable office allowing us to do so without a tinge of conscience.

Nor is the 11.3% increase he wants to bring in. And that’s just for the base rent. Everything else is billed separately and over the past five years, those expensive have only gone in one direction. We make out 20 cheques to this man annually, not 12. The base rent is basically his ‘return on investment’ and he has decided to increase his dividends at a time when everyone else is reeling from a tight economy.

He says the reason for this is that the building is “worth more” because it faces the main street. Did he just notice that it faces the main street? The unit, the former CFMX-FM studio, has been facing the main street for at least thirty years. And the rent — his $8 per square foot, plus all the extra expenses — brings the total rent closer to $12 per square foot.

I know of people in U.S. bookstores who are paying $4 and $5 per square foot. No wonder you can’t do business in Canada. No wonder the downtown areas of so many of our cities and towns sit empty. You actually can get blood from a stone; landlords in Canada do it on a daily basis.

Capitalism is based on exploitation. The landlord owns the building. In our town there actually aren’t a number of downtown stores sitting empty, so if we leave, he can easily find another sucker, despite the current economy.

The Amazon model — the company that is equally complicit in putting the local bookshop out of business — is based on warehouse space pricing.  That’s considerably cheaper than the type of real-estate we’re consuming in a strip plaza, and as little as a third of the costs being paid in indoor malls.

I would love to be a building owner. If I had a tenants, there are certain things — the distinct billing of key expenses for example, not the HVAC clauses — that I would probably do the same as he. I would love to be in the position that very, very few are in our industry: The position of owning their own building.

But I’m not a wealthy real-estate tycoon. I chose a different path for my life and it has not at all been remunerative. I am compelled to, as the scriptures say, “bless those who despitefully use you.”  It’s not my first reaction.

In our letter to our staff, suppliers, and local pastors, I concluded this way:

Our continued sixteen years have been an example of God’s provision.   Do you ever wonder what it might have been like to see those five loaves and two fish multiply?  We’ve seen that happen.   But now our resources and our resolve have been stretched to new levels and in the absence of someone to buy out the store, we don’t foresee maintaining the status quo as an option…  

It’s perhaps unfair that the burden of operating a ministry that affects an entire county should rest on the shoulders of one individual family, but we’ve accepted that challenge now for sixteen years, and I trust God has found us faithful.  Some people reach the end of life and regret that they didn’t do more for the Kingdom.  While my life isn’t perfect and I do, in fact, have lots of regrets, at least on this score, I can say with assurance that I gave everything.

Borders Books Bankruptcy Coverage

February 17, 2011 1 comment

The bigger they are…


Borders Books is second only to Barnes and Noble in the United States retail book market.  The chain filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection yesterday.

  • Bloomberg News matter-of-factly buries the story after leading off with the chapter 11 filing for Blockbuster Video.
  • In Australia, Borders there also filed for bankruptcy, but did so within 24 hours of that county’s largest bookstore chain, Angus and Robertson.  The Australian dollar, like the Canadian dollar is high right now and brick and mortar stores there are losing out to online sellers such as Amazon. A “savage day” for the book industry, reads one report.
  • A judge overseeing the U.S. situation has already approved the closing of 200 Borders stores as part of the restructuring.
  • Wall Street Journal blogger Christopher John Farley insists that reading is still alive and well despite the recent news.
  • Christian Retailing reports on the impact on Christian publishers, including the $1.9M owed to Zondervan that is distinct from the $25.8M owed to parent Harper Collins.
  • The blog Department Store Retailing says the greater hit to publishers is now the loss of shelf space.
  • USAToday reports that Borders will lay off 6,000 people, almost a third of its workforce.
  • The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) notes that Borders “pioneered superstores which put countless small local bookstores out of business.”  It notes that Borders peaked in 2003 when it had “1,249 stores under the Borders and Waldenbooks names, but now it operates barely half that. Its annual revenue has fallen by about $1 billion since 2006, the last year it reported a profit.”

Here’s a list of the top major creditors from Naked Press blog:

  • Penguin: $41.1 million
  • Hachette Book Group:  $36.9 million
  • Simon & Schuster:  $33.75 million
  • Random House:  $33.5 million
  • HarperCollins:  $25.8 million
  • Macmillan:  $11.4 million
  • Wiley:  $11.2 million
  • Perseus:  $7.8 million
  • F+W Media:  $4.6 million
  • Houghton Mifflin Harcourt:  $4.4 million
  • Workman:  $4 million
  • McGraw-Hill:  $3.1 million
  • Pearson Education:  $2.8 million
  • NBN:  $2 million
  • Norton:  $2 million
  • Zondervan:  $1.9 million
  • Hay House:  $1.7 million
  • Elsevier Science:  $1.6 million
  • Publications Intl.:  $1.1 million

More NIV Update Stats

Here are some additional gleanings from BibleWebApp.com on the new NIV.  I wonder if the word ‘gleaning’ appears in the update?

These stats are compiled on a verse-by-verse basis:

Books which most-resemble the existing (1984) NIV:

  • Genesis 75.86%
  • I Chronicles 73.89
  • Exodus 71.56

(Highest NT book is Mark 69.47)

Books which least-resemble the existing (1984) NIV

  • Zephaniah 20.75
  • Malachi 29.09
  • Galatians 30.87

Books which most-resemble the TNIV

  • Zephaniah 64.15
  • Malachi 61.82
  • Song of Songs 57.26

(Highest NT book is Jude 56.00)

Books which least-resemble the TNIV

  • III John 14.29
  • Genesis 19.18
  • Mark 21.98

See also some other summaries from the same table of statistics that I posted here back in November.   See, that stats course we took in university wasn’t useless after all.

Difficult verse often used in Bible comparison charts:

King Jimmy:

II Cor 1013But we will not boast of things without our measure, but according to the measure of the rule which God hath distributed to us, a measure to reach even unto you.

14For we stretch not ourselves beyond our measure, as though we reached not unto you: for we are come as far as to you also in preaching the gospel of Christ:

15Not boasting of things without our measure, that is, of other men’s labours; but having hope, when your faith is increased, that we shall be enlarged by you according to our rule abundantly…

The Newniv:

II Cor 10:13 We, however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the sphere of service God himself has assigned to us, a sphere that also includes you. 14 We are not going too far in our boasting, as would be the case if we had not come to you, for we did get as far as you with the gospel of Christ. 15 Neither do we go beyond our limits by boasting of work done by others. Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our sphere of activity among you will greatly expand…

Peterson:

II Cor 10:13-14We aren’t making outrageous claims here. We’re sticking to the limits of what God has set for us. But there can be no question that those limits reach to and include you. We’re not moving into someone else’s “territory.” We were already there with you, weren’t we? We were the first ones to get there with the Message of Christ, right? So how can there be any question of overstepping our bounds by writing or visiting you?

15-We’re not barging in on the rightful work of others, interfering with their ministries, demanding a place in the sun with them. What we’re hoping for is that as your lives grow in faith, you’ll play a part within our expanding work.

That’s a tough verse even in The Message without more context or background commentary.

The new Bibles start shipping in just a few weeks.

And to save all of you from writing back, ‘gleaning(s)’ appears six times in the new translation, none of which are from Ruth.

The People’s Bible Is A New Twist on Bible Formats

When Bob Harrington, aka “The Chaplain of Burbon Street” hit the circuit with a Bible with a bright red leather cover, not everyone was pleased.  It was an era of black leather, not red leather.

And the color red brought tension later on when red-letter editions highlighted the words of Christ — or in some cases the words of Christ the Son or God the Father — but at the expense of other verses.   Were not all the words of scripture of equal weight?

And now we have a new NIV concept, The People’s Bible.  It remains to be seen whether the critics will find everything wrong with it, or whether Bible readers will gravitate to the new concept.

You want quick inspiration. You can find it here.

Every minute, people are searching the internet for Bible verses to lend insight and inspiration to their lives. Every day, thousands of people are looking for answers to big, life-changing questions. Using extensive data from BibleGateway.com, The People’s Bible offers a visual guide to the Bible’s most searched (and most loved) verses – the inspiring results of nearly 70 million unique verse, word, and topic searches. The more often a verse has appeared in a search request, the larger it appears in the text of The People’s Bible.

Inspiration at the speed of life.

The People’s Bible is perfect for busy lives in need of a quick, reliable dose of inspiration. When there’s no time to read a book or even a chapter, readers can quickly find words sure to inspire, encourage, and empower. On lunch break, during midday Bible study, between meetings or between taking kids to practice, The People’s Bible is a reliably quick spark of insight. It’s where the printed page meets the information age. Visit Zondervan.com to learn more.

BTW, just out of curiosity, did the folks at Zondervan realize that Augsburg Fortress published the NRSV People’s Bible as recently as 2008? Just wondering.

Promote Your Book With Outrageous Rhetoric

February 12, 2011 5 comments

John MacArthur has uncovered the “hidden truth.”

It’s a “tragedy in Bible translation.”

There’s been a “cover up.”

The real meaning is “lost in translation.”

The CIA is in on it.

At least four of the above five propositions were given by John MacArthur to promote his book, Slave, when in fact, he was supposed to be giving the convocation address at Liberty University on Friday.  Seems the word “servant” in scripture is a mistranslation, where the word should be, as luck would have it, the title of his new book.

He’s a lean, mean, book-promoting machine.

And I’m not the only cynic.   Aren’t convocation speeches intended to inspire students to launch out and take on the world?  But alas, I am prevented from writing more because, it turns out, the CIA is in on it.  And MI5.

One Bookstore Owner’s Prayer

February 11, 2011 5 comments

Dear God,


When we started out it all seemed so easy.  You opened doors and directed our paths.  We saw Your hand in everything in those early days.  We have our victory stories.

But now it’s different.  Changing market conditions and rising costs are closing in on us.  We’re stretched in so many ways.   We have to work so much harder for the same results.   Like soldiers in a battle, we grow weary and discouraged as we watch fellow-soldiers falling all around us.   We’re pained and hurting from those who were once closest to us — local church staff — who no longer support our stores with their church purchasing; bulk sales we really need to make everything else possible.

Yes, we’re still reaching people.  There’s nothing like the feeling that comes with selling a child or a teenager their first Bible.  Or a middle-aged person who is connecting with You for the first time.   There’s nothing like being there for someone in the middle of a life crisis, to offer a resource, or just to say, “We’ll remember you in prayer.” (And then to remember!)   There’s nothing like helping a young worship leader locate that song they heard on the radio, or having a greeting card that puts perfectly into words the hope and encouragement someone wishes to offer.

But it’s getting harder and harder.  We keep saying, “The ministry side only happens when the business side is viable.”  These days, the financial side of things just isn’t happening.

God, we need wisdom.  Lots of it.  Probably a lot more than other people in retail.  We need a sense of Your direction for our lives as we seek to respond to an ever-changing landscape.  We also need assurance, encouragement, confirmation.  We need to find favour with our suppliers, our landlords, various levels of government, local churches and parachurch organizations, and even a renewed sense of common purpose with our employees.   We need opportunities to help out other bookstores who are struggling, and interactions with other stores who might be able to help us out.

We also need revival.  As individuals.  As local communities.  As the Church as a whole in North America.  We know that if people hunger and thirst after You, they will also hunger and thirst to read the Bible, to study the scriptures, to reach out to their friends and neighbours and co-workers, to fill their homes with Christian music and Christian literature.

So many Christian radio stations, television stations, websites, megachurches, books being published; so why do those of us who have taken Christian resources to the marketplace struggle so much right now?

We face a time when people are apathetic about reading which converges with a time when people are spiritually apathetic.  We need people to once again learn to love the word and to love The Word.

God renew our passion for You first, and then, secondly for the things of You.  Help us to find the means and the methods to lift your name in the middle of a hurting world.  Keep us from buying products that do not truly exalt You.  Keep us from being caught up in enthusiasm and emotion and purchasing things our local customers neither need nor want. Help us to have what it is that broken people are searching for at the time they most require it.

Help us to continue to show Your love in the part of the world where You have placed us.  Help us to be gracious when our closest friends and Church staff don’t support us.  Help us to do our best to place the book and music items we have into homes and families.

Lord, we don’t deserve Your blessing.  But we humbly ask You to be merciful to us as we face unprecedented challenges.

For the honour of Your name and the building of Your Kingdom, we pray;

Amen.