Archive for June, 2011

Philip Yancey: My Favorite Author

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The Future of Books?

I’ve seen a disturbing number of these lately…

Kylie Stillman carves some amazing images into books and stacks of paper, such as this piece entitled Common Oak.

~from Neatorama

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How The HMV Sale Affects Your Music Dept.

This story surfaced on Monday at CBC News:

A British restructuring firm has agreed to pay $3.2 million for music retailer HMV Canada.

Hilco UK will also provide up to $25 million in funding to help its newly acquired chain of 121 locations across Canada continue its growth strategy, which consists in part of a much greater digital presence.

The chain was once one of the largest music sellers in Canada, but in recent years sales have cratered in the face of digital music sales.  [Click link above for full story]

The story is important to those of us in Christian retail as it shows the continued vulnerability of the recorded music and DVD sector of our business.  For many of us, concerns over music inventory — which can balloon very quickly — means stocking only “A” tier titles, which means that those secondary and tertiary titles, which are often the ones Christian radio gravitates toward, are handled only by special order.

Long term, I believe that the “music bar” that we saw at Baker Books’ retail store in Grand Rapids last year is the future of keeping brick and mortar stores in the music game.  But it requires major investment.

The CBC news story indicates HMV’s new owners will actually spend far more on digital conversion than they are paying for the stores.

Scoring Sales in a Department that Counts

I have a great memory, but I don’t keep a lot of statistics on the history of my stores.  But today I realized there is one stat I wish I had tracked from day one.

We were visiting Mary today at the (appropriately named) The Word in Perth, Ontario, where she told me that in a very small store in a very limited market, they have sold 8,000 Bibles over the years the store has operated.   She even had a press clipping from the local newspaper for a story done awhile back when they passed the 7,200 mark with a MacDonald’s type marquee in the window.  While you can measure the quantity of Bibles, you can never measure the impact that those copies of God’s Word have had in the lives of individuals, families, workplaces and neighbourhoods.

Selling a Bible, especially someone their first Bible represents the highest calling for Christian retailers.  I’m tempted to end this with something like, “Congratulations, Mary and staff;” but that’s not my place.  Rather, we should all work toward the day we hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant…”

“Just Say No” to Title-by-Title Street Date Affidavits

If you want to get books shipped from Ingram/Spring Arbor before the “lay down” or “street date,” it’s as simple as going to this link which explains the program and links you to the .pdf file for the  “Street Smart Affidavit,”  then printing it, signing it and faxing it to their Nashville offices.   The contract remains in effect unless cancelled or if the retailer violates the terms.

By signing this document, you agree that you will not display, sell, or loan for advanced reading a title before the publisher-assigned on-sale date. If the publisher notifies us of a violation of this agreement, all of your Street Smart titles will be held until the on-sale date for the following 12 months. This agreement will remain in effect until cancelled in writing by you.

That’s how it should work.  It creates an almost fair retail environment where nobody can sell the title before the date in question, even though online sellers get to sell the title ahead of time with delayed shipping.  Okay, so maybe in today’s world it’s not fair at all.  But technically online vendors can’t ship the product ahead of everyone else.

Lately, we’ve seen examples of a different system evolving where retailers have to contract not to sell the product early on a title-by-title basis.  Baker Books and Bethany House (which is the same corporate entity) do this, and now David C. Cook is doing this with the new Francis Chan title releasing July 5th. (Zondervan, Thomas Nelson and everyone else don’t add this complication.) This is just what the average trying-to-stay-afloat retailer needs: More paperwork. 

I’ve written about this here many times:

and I have no intention of letting this topic go.  My greatest objection is that it runs contrary to Matthew 5:37 and James 5:12 which say that you don’t need to swear an oath but simply “let your yes be yes and your no be no.”    Actually, check out how the NLT puts the Matthew passage;

37 Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one.

Listen; I understand why this sort of thing is necessary in the general market. If people will make pirate DVDs, selling a book two days early is a rather minor of offense by comparison.  So you need to be emphatic about the rules and you need mechanisms in place that are emphatic to general market store staff and managers.

But it has no place in our industry. 

Books that Attack other Authors, Ministries, and Churches

Today’s story at Thinking Out Loud actually began with a book inquiry at the store.  However, as I made the call, the inquiry never turned into an order, since I refuse to stock the title.

Tell your customers you'd rather not...

The book, The Dark Side of the Purpose Driven Church by Noah Hutchings is being promoted by televangelist Jack Van Impe, whose rants against Rick Warren and others have resulted the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) refusing to air a particular episode of his program, further resulting in Van Impe removing the show from the TBN lineup. 

It’s bad enough that books (and TV programs) like this exist, but if you carry them in your store — especially if they are visible — it only diminishes your retail ministry.  Customers are generally not impressed when people devote great amounts of energy to attacking other ministries, and the world at large just sees it as another example of how Christianity — which they see as denominationally fractured — doesn’t work.

Another example of this Dan Lucarini’s, Why I Left the Contemporary Christian Christian Music Movement: Confessions of a Former Worship Leader.  If you know a church that is still — after all these years — waging the ‘worship wars,’ then this book is like throwing gasoline on a fire. Better to offer something greatly balanced like Gordon MacDonald’s Who Stole My Church.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t room for investigation or critique.  I carried both versions of Finding God in the Shack in my store because those titles furthered the discussion and were not sensationalizing the book or demonizing the author.  (A good warning is when a book uses a lot of CAPITAL LETTERS, or worse, underlining.)  But I didn’t stock Don Nori Sr.’s The Love Shack, because I felt that (a) it was just piggybacking or capitalizing on the popularity of other books, and (b) it would have been better to focus on one or the other; the title is confusing enough, and people who read The Shack were probably not the same people who read The Love Dare.

…Take a minute to read my comments on The Dark Side… and feel free to leave your own at that article. 

I recognize that ultra-conservatives and fundamentalists may make up a percentage of your total customer mix.  I’m just not sure it’s a percentage you want. By feeding the appetite for scandal, you are just enabling people in the perpetuation of a flawed Christianity.  Plus, sooner or later your store will be the object of attack.

The Inventory That Won’t Liquidate

It’s hard for me to believe it’s been two years since I ran this piece, but one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, or in this case, one store’s obsolete inventory could be pure gold to people half a world away on the mission field. So here is repeat blog of our piece on Christian Salvage Mission…

Unless your discount room at the back of the store also has its own discount room even further back, you probably know that some really good books — purely for cosmetic reasons — reach the end of the line in terms of saleability. For those without a clearance room, you probably have a minimum standard of book quality that certain titles — especially given the environmental push to avoid bleached paper and go with rapidly fading newsprint — can no longer live up to.

Now I’m not talking about books like the curiosity piece currently on my home coffee table: The End: Why Jesus Will Return By 2000; which really belongs in the recycling bin, but instead books that are actually acceptable in terms of content — possibly even on sale at the front of the store in newer editions — but unacceptable in terms of appearance. Books that give new meaning to the term “shopworn.”

Christian Salvage MissionEnter Christian Salvage Mission. This organization takes books to places where they are needed, on the mission field where English-speaking workers, unable to bring their libraries with them — appreciate the infusion of fresh resource materials and devotional reading.

The organization packs container loads which are shipped using money from donations and money from AIR MILES donated by people who don’t wish to save them for their own use.

There are three ways you can get involved.

  1. If you believe in the power of Christian literature — and as a bookstore owner or employee you do — you can donate financially.
  2. If you shop a lot at stores which offer AIR MILES, you can note the CSM number on a card in your wallet and have the cashier type it in each time you’re asked: 8007 960 3655
  3. If you have inventory — and this can include obsolete Sunday School curriculum or surplus copies of Our Daily Bread in addition to books, commentaries, devotionals, etc. — you can arrange to get them to a CSM representative by contacting them through their Hamilton, Ontario Canadian office website or Canadian e-mail or in the United States at the address shown on the Canadian website.
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Your Store Was Greatly Shaped by the Jesus Movement

It was 40 years ago today that Sargent Pepper taught the band to play.

It was 40 years ago today that Time Magazine announced a revival; the birth of “The Jesus Revolution.” 

More products in your store have been fashioned in the wake of that revolution than you realize.

Here’s a brief report I wrote last night at Thinking out Loud.

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Making Room for God’s Spirit in our Stores

While I’m probably not thought of as a Charismatic by most of my customers, I believe in the limitless power of the Holy Spirit and am not a cessationist when it comes to spiritual gifts.

I also believe in spiritual warfare, and am acutely aware of times in my store when my thoughts wander down an unproductive rabbit trail. It’s easy to overlook the spiritual nurture of our staff and equally easy to forget that frontliners are engaged in daily spiritual battle both without and within.  I have often found myself asking, “Where on earth did that thought come from?”

Here’s one tiny detail that might be helpful if or your staff find yourself in that position:

  • check to make sure your in-store sound system is actually running; and,
  • if it is, take off whatever is currently playing and put on some powerful worship music containing songs everyone has just sung at weekend church services.

Seriously.  This seemingly insignificant factor can make a world of difference both to you and your staff, and also the next customer who walks through the door who may be fighting their own personal mind battle. 

There’s a time to introduce new artists, but there are times when you just need to fill the store with praise and worship and allow everyone to get refocused and refreshed. Have you ever grocery shopped in the produce aisle when the sprayers come on to cool and freshen up the fruit and vegetables?  This is your store’s equivalent.

And if it won’t scare customers away — you know who you are — sing along on a verse or two.

Last year I wrote on the topic of our thought life for three consecutive days, and if you want to continue reading or share this with your staff, here are the links on this vital subject:

Learning from the Apple Store: It’s All About the Customer Experience

Nelson’s page for independent bookstores, Thomas Nelson Indies on Facebook linked recently to this Wall Street Journal article.   Apple stores are full of different types of experience possibilities for both consumers and businesses, but with the bottom line always in view. Here’s a sample describing their service formula:

Apple lays its “steps of service” out in the acronym APPLE, according to a 2007 employee training manual reviewed by The Wall Street Journal that is still in use.

Approach customers with a personalized warm welcome,” “Probe politely to understand all the customer’s needs,” “Present a solution for the customer to take home today,” “Listen for and resolve any issues or concerns,” and “End with a fond farewell and an invitation to return.”

Apple’s control of the customer experience extends down to the minutest details. The store’s confidential training manual tells in-store technicians exactly what to say to customers it describes as emotional: “Listen and limit your responses to simple reassurances that you are doing so. ‘Uh-huh’ ‘I understand,’ etc.”

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Spiritualizing Preferences

I’m not seeing a lot of online coverage concerning Wednesday’s  Southern Baptist resolution “not to commend” the new NIV to its congregations, but I remain convinced this is a major developing story.

I’ve devoted more space to it on my personal blog, which I encourage to read.  This is a situation where logic and reason have been somewhat suspended, and what really amounts to preferences has been taken and spiritualized.  Be sure to read the reprint comment (#1) in the feedback section where a writer to another blog suggests that this amounts to “Defending the faith.” 

I suppose retailers should not be too quick to reduce remaining NIV-1984 stock; you will probably find a market for them.

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Southern Baptists Unanimously Condemn New NIV

According to this information published late yesterday from Baptist Press, the resolution may be binding on Lifeway stores and websites not to carry the translation; a major defeat for Biblica and Zondervan.

(Wed. 8:14 PM EST; from Phoenix, Arizona)

In a surprising and dramatic move moments ago, messengers voted first to consider a resolution highly critical of the TNIV (sic) 2011 and then passed the resolution nearly unanimously. The resolution came from the floor — introduced by messenger Tim Overton — and not from the Resolutions Committee. Overturn’s appeal for messengers to consider the resolution passed by at least a 2-to-1 margin, and the resolution itself got only a handful of opposing votes. The Resolutions Committee had asked messengers not to consider the resolution.

The resolution states:

WHEREAS, Many Southern Baptist pastors and laypeople have trusted and used the 1984 New International Version (NIV) translation to the great benefit of the Kingdom; and

WHEREAS, Biblica and Zondervan Publishing House are publishing an updated version of the New International Version (NIV) which incorporates gender neutral methods of translation; and

WHEREAS, Southern Baptists repeatedly have affirmed our commitment to the full inspiration and authority of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:15-16) and, in 1997, urged every Bible publisher and translation group to resist “gender-neutral” translation of Scripture; and

WHEREAS, This translation alters the meaning of hundreds of verses, most significantly by erasing gender-specific details which appear in the original language; and

WHEREAS, Although it is possible for Bible scholars to disagree about translation methods or which English words best translate the original languages, the 2011 NIV has gone beyond acceptable translation standards; and

WHEREAS, Seventy-five percent of the inaccurate gender language found in the TNIV is retained in the 2011 NIV; and

WHEREAS, The Southern Baptist Convention has passed a similar resolution concerning the TNIV in 2002; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, June 14-15, 2011 express profound disappointment with Biblica and Zondervan Publishing House for this inaccurate translation of God’s inspired Scripture; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we encourage pastors to make their congregations aware of the translation errors found in the 2011 NIV; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we respectfully request that LifeWay not make this inaccurate translation available for sale in their bookstores; and be it finally

RESOLVED, That we cannot commend the 2011 NIV to Southern Baptists or the larger Christian community.

Given that many of the editions of the 1984  NIV are already out of print, this creates a major problem for Zondervan. Furthermore, other conservative Evangelical groups could follow the Southern Baptist Convention’s lead.

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