Archive for May, 2011

Two Messages to My Suppliers

  • Try to avoid email attachments.  Where possible, place  your announcement in the body of the email itself for maximum impact, unless you feel that the wording and content — use of terms like “clearance,” “discount,” “sale,” etc. would increase the spam count. Say what you have to say in the email itself.
  • If you do send out forms put dates on them.  I’ve said this before.  We often see something in a stack of paper and have no idea how current it might still be.  And if you do send out forms, don’t just stick to regular white copy paper.  Office supply stores sell all those other colors for a reason.  Let your message stand out.
Categories: Uncategorized

ABA CEO to Members: Books Won’t Be Extinct

We remain convinced that the lion’s share of books sold in our member stores for the foreseeable future will be sold in traditional book format. Nothing can replace the physical book. Television didn’t put radio and the movies out of business, and e-books won’t make print books extinct.

~ABA’s Oren Teicher (see yesterday’s post here for other excerpts from his speech).

Categories: Uncategorized

California Bookstore Advertising: “We’re Still Here”

Today Pat Chown at Foundation Distributing forwarded a transcript of the address given by Oren Teicher, the CEO of the American Booksellers Association (ABA) at their annual meeting which bears reading.  If you wish to see the full text, just type a “send text” comment to this post, and I’ll forward it to you (your e-mail address won’t appear on the blog).


  • Led by our colleagues in California, newspaper ads have appeared from booksellers with headlines heralding that “we’re still here!”  And, indeed, we are.
  • …[A]midst all this change, it’s clear that core business practices in bookselling and publishing continue largely as they were more than half a century ago. When it works, the editing and curating skills of publishers and booksellers create the connective tissue between authors and readers. But all too often things don’t go according to plan. And, as a result, publishers and booksellers are faced with tough decisions regarding unsold titles, a rising number of returns, and business uncertainty.
  • It’s an antiquated system, in need of a complete reappraisal. I challenge you to find other successful enterprises founded on paradigms created before Kennedy debated Nixon, before there were interstate highways, and before anyone “Loved Lucy.” 
  • The music business is a sobering reminder of what happens when an industry loses its showroom. Despite the increase in single-track digital sales between 2007 and 2010, 10 years ago Americans spent almost three times as much on recorded music products as they do today. By some estimates, the music industry is down 64 percent from a peak year of 2000.  Certainly, no one thing is responsible for this implosion of music sales, but, without a doubt, the loss of thousands of physical locations — where shoppers could browse, sample, and discuss music with a knowledgeable staff and other customers — was a major factor. In losing a physical display space, we lost the joy of discovery itself.  And, importantly, while the shelves in the iTunes online store might be limitless, the attention span of a shopper is not.
  • In music retailing, it’s clear that the loss of physical showrooms was a catalyst for a significant erosion of sales. In indie bookselling in the U.S., both available data and our in-store experience have demonstrated repeatedly that combining the passionate handselling of new titles and the opportunity to comfortably browse a curated inventory equals a successful formula for launching a title and establishing a wide readership.
  • We “are still here” because we continue to exercise our special role as curators for customers facing an ever-widening range of reading options. We “are still here” because we have strengthened our ties to our communities and neighboring fellow indie retailers. We “are still here” because we have become even more adept at utilizing the appropriate technological tools. We “are still here” because we are focusing our entrepreneurial energies on finding appropriate non-book inventory. And, finally, we “are still here” because we are developing innovative — and complementary — new business models.
  • One thing that hasn’t changed in the wake of new technology is that it takes a certain level of commitment and attention to enjoy — and finish — a book — and that the A-list customers of any bookstore are those who are always asking the question, “What should I read next?” Reaching them — and adding new readers to the A-list — is very likely going to be an even tougher challenge in the months and years to come. Importantly, this is what we bricks-and-mortar bookstores do better than anyone else.
  • And now more than ever, the scope of the bookstore-as-showroom entails much more than simply what goes on within the store. It includes the staff picks and news about author events on the bookstore’s website; the store’s status updates on Facebook; the Tweets from both the store and individual booksellers; e-mails about sales and suggested titles; visits to schools and libraries to talk about new titles with students and book club members; off-site book sales at meetings, seminars, and events; and much more.
  • Simply writing off bookstores as a relic of an antiquated era is not only short-sighted, it is a sure prescription for an impoverished publishing community — both financially and culturally.
  • In our talks with publishers, ABA has discussed a number of ideas, including consignment arrangements, extended dating for invoices, forgoing returnability — particularly on backlist — for additional discount, and a close look at how co-op might be restructured to take into account both the shrinking number of traditional media outlets and the proliferation of online and social media avenues for book promotion. We do understand that publishers are facing significant financial pressures and constraints, too. Our goal is to continue a dialogue that respects the challenges facing both booksellers and publishers, that recognizes the common ground and goals we share, and that responds intelligently to the opportunities before us.

There Will Be Books in Heaven

Seriously!  I came across this today.  It suggests, directly from scripture, that if there’s no overlapping, there could be at least five different books in heaven.  Check out this blog post!


Categories: Uncategorized

Zondervan to Publish Trapped Clilean Miner’s Story

Just nine days short of the one year anniversary of the October 13th, 2010 rescue of the 33 men trapped in the underground mine, Zondervan will publish the story of José Henríquez, Miracle in the Mine: One Man’s Story of Strength and Survival in the Chilean Mine on October 4th.   The hardcover retails for $19.99 US /$21.99 CDN.

On October 13, 2010, millions of television viewers on five continents literally stopped everything to watch the amazing rescue of 33 men trapped underground in the mine of San Jose de Copiapo in northern Chile. What had seemed at first a hopeless tragedy later became a triumph of human effort, courage, perseverance, and expertise. For 17 excruciating days no one knew whether any of the miners had survived the collapse of the mine shaft, nor were the surviving miners aware of any rescue attempts. They spent a total of 69 days trapped underground. And it was there, in that frightening cavern, that one man took on the responsibility of encouraging the others and use the tragedy as an opportunity to share his faith.

Miracle in the Mine is the testimony of Jose Henriquez–the “pastor” of the 13 Chilean miners whose grueling ordeal and amazing rescue captured the attention of the entire world. It is the story of God preparing Henriquez for his greatest test as he spent 69 days trapped underground in the San Jose mine in northern Chile. Includes an exclusive 8-page full-color set of pictures.

Does This Product Exist?

Last week I had a visit from four young people in their late teens and early twenties.  Clearly, they are beyond the young adult section of my store.  They take their faith very seriously and read a number of non-fiction and issue-focused Christian living titles; but this day they were looking for fiction.  Not historical.  Not Amish.  Not mystery.  Not romance…  They wanted to read a story that was about a family, a family with a mix of children and teens and twentysomethings not unlike themselves.   And as I picked up title after title, all I could find was adults interacting with other adults.  Any suggestions?  Is this a gap in our market?

Electronic Books: An Alternative Scenario

Started the week with an early morning unscheduled visit with Bob Woods at Foundation Distributing.  As we discussed the current crisis in publishing an entirely fresh vision of the future unfolded before me…

In this future, electronic readers, currently accounting for up to 15% of some categories grows to 15% across the board by year end, and then inches up to 20% in 2012 and 25% in 2013.

And there it peaks.

And then, in 2014, at the latest, it starts falling.

I say all this based on the way our industry has ‘survived’ (sort of) other technological invasions into our product landscape.  E-cards were to replace standard greeting cards.  Received one lately?  Apparently people prefer licking stamps and envelopes and sending snail mail.  Downloading of virtual CDs was to replace sales of physical music CDs, and while the industry has taken a major hit, CDs do keep selling them and when you factor in the huge growth in the indie market, there are probably more CDs being bought and sold today than SoundScan will ever know. 

Our giftware departments are testimony to the fact that some things can’t be replicated digitally, even as scientists are reverse-engineering all manner of products so that computers, instead of being told to ‘print,’ will be told to ‘render.’  But it will never fully succeed.

I’m already aware of complaints of headaches, of battery-life issues, and of church parishioners — like this one — wishing the pastor would simply close the iPad and speak from printed text. 

So, if you can last that long,  I see the present trend continuing for another 24 months.

And then the pendulum starts to swing back.

Zondervan Bible Catalog Offers Selling Alternative

There is no product for which Christian bookstores hold an advantage over their online counterparts than in the purchase of a new Bible.   The advice we’re able to give combined with with a stronger preference for staying with print on this particular product means that our contribution to the purchase process has value, provided the customer doesn’t simply take our expertise and then do the transaction online.

It occurs to me that with the release of the new 200-page Zondervan catalog, it’s important that I teach/remind my staff how to sell from a catalog. (Apologies to my UK friends for not spelling it catalogue.)   There are actually two new publications from Zondervan; the Come Closer book highlights only the NIV 2011 editions, the 200-page is a full Bible catalog including NASB, Amplified, NRSV (through its HarperCollins parent), NIrV, Parallel Bibles and there’s even a lone GNT in the kids’ section.

Frontliners should hold the catalog out facing the customer, or at least at 90 degrees where both customer and clerk have equal view.  The customer should also be permitted, if he/she desires, to thumb through the book on their own.  But first, staff need to be familiar with the layout and understand the various options available in terms of (a) font size, (b) binding and (c) indexing. 

Done right, this can add significantly to your sales.  A recurring ‘order’ item might be something you want to add to core inventory.

Not A Fan: The New Title Readers and Booksellers are Looking For

Rather than link to my review at Thinking Out Loud for this title, I am taking the unusual step of reprinting it in full as it appeared there.  This is a title we all should support…

I believe what we’re looking at here is a book that has the potential to pick up where books like Crazy Love by Francis Chan and Radical by David Platt left off and move us to the next level of commitment.

Not a Fan: Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus by Kyle Idleman is one of those “Snakes on a Plane” type of titles; since once you’ve seen the cover, you know exactly where the story is headed. There were people in Jesus’ day, just as there are in ours, who are fans but not followers. End of synopsis. The book consists in accurately delineating the difference.

But I am, in fact a fan; not where Jesus is concerned, but of the author, teaching pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky and host of the brilliant but underrated H20 video evangelism series, Kyle Idleman; which is why I begged the people at Zondervan to toss me a freebie of this one, which, I can now say, I would have gladly paid for anyway.

Just as the ten short films in the H20 collection cut back and forth between teaching and story, Not a Fan cuts back and forth between Bible narrative and illustrations from people Kyle has known, including some very candid stories from his own life and family.

The book begins in an off-hand, light-hearted way, using occasional footnotes suggestive perhaps of an ADD or ADHD author who is his own worst distraction. But there’s nothing light at all about the book, which sets the bar high in terms of what Christ followership implies. If anything, the relatability of the author, including some rather self-depreciating moments, leave you totally unprepared for the moments where the hammer falls in terms of truly deciding if you’re a follower or a fan.

The first seven chapters include snapshots from the gospels of people at various levels of intimate relationship with Jesus. The next four chapters are a superlative breakdown of Luke 9:23–

If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

— while the last three chapters continue to explore the implications of that theme. For the last seven chapters in total, it rolls out this way:

  • Anyone: No list of pre-qualifications or character references required
  • Come After: Pursuing God with passion; with abandon
  • Deny: What happens when it costs everything to be a follower
  • Dying Daily: Taking up your cross today, tomorrow, and the next day
  • Wherever: It’s probably not where you think
  • Whenever: Right here, right now, no excuses
  • Whatever: No second thoughts

Each of the 14 chapters ends with a testimony of someone who wishes to stand up and be counted as being “Not a fan.” Honestly, if you can live out everything this book challenges us to do and to be, there ought to be button you remove or a sticker you peel off on the last page to demonstrate your desire to make that same commitment.

I am giving this book my unqualified full endorsement as the book to read in the summer of 2011. But I want to go beyond that; I want to suggest that Not a Fan is the book for house church, small group or adult elective study for the fall. You can combine chapters one and two to create a 13-week curriculum out of this, if you have to stick to a quarterly schedule. Others may want to take even longer to flesh out the implications of Luke 9:23 and what Jesus truly intended when he said, “Follow me.”

My name is Paul Wilkinson, and by God’s grace, and with God’s help, I am not a fan.

Read an excerpt of the book posted at Thinking Out Loud on May 1st and another at Christianity 201 on May 11th.

The Attrition Continues

It’s becoming a daily occurrence, I usually just delete the email notifications I get.

This one’s in Texas.

Do you think our publisher partners are concerned about this, or are they deliberately choosing to stand back and watch it happen?

Anger in the Face of Retail Contraction

When we had three stores, one of my regrets was that we didn’t strategically plant one in a larger urban area.  In the wake of the story we carried here yesterday — an independent store in a very large city where I formerly would have given my eye teeth to have a location  — it seemed to strike very close to home.  As it did I found myself getting angry on two fronts:

First of all, how do you explain to some 70-year old woman who has never touched a computer in her life — and wouldn’t even know how to turn one on — why she is being penalized for the change in buying habits of others?  Her weekly trip to the store to pick up a new fiction or Christian living title is the highlight of her week, and now that’s being taken away from her.  Terms like “online shopping” and “commercial website” are completely foreign to her.  You have to ask, would she even “get it” in terms of what’s happening?  It is rather unfair that she has to pay the price for a technology she doesn’t embrace.

Secondly, I got to thinking how in 1995 the book industry was basically targeted for decimation by people with no previous history in bookselling.   And it was done with no initial stock commitment; they simply uploaded databases from all the major publishers.  Before online shopping, when the “big box” stores opened, people talked in terms of “category killers.”  Well they killed this category.  It didn’t happen to paint.  It didn’t happen to pants.  It didn’t happen to the same degree to pots and pans.  It didn’t happen in similar fashion to hardware.  It didn’t happen to tires.  But the book industry was a sitting target, a target that was systematically and swiftly picked off.

Photo: UK Bookstore Guide

Losing Another Store

Sorry to hear about another one.  I can remember shipping product to Upper Room Book Store in London when I worked for InterVarsity Press on Leslie Street in Toronto.  The store has always been a major force in western Ontario, and will no doubt be deeply missed.  Their website tells the story.