Archive for July, 2011

Psalm 127, Slightly Altered

 1 Unless the LORD builds the bookstore,
the sales associates labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the business,
the displays and advertising are in vain.

Eventually it comes down to God’s involvement, and God’s Spirit moving in what we do.  The ministry is only possible when the business is sound, but the business will only be viable when real ministry is taking place.  In my opinion, anyway.

I stopped short of continuing to the next verse:

2 It is vain to open before 9:00 AM
and stay open after 6:00…

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My Dream Vacation

There are a number of places in the world I would love to visit, but my dream vacation actually involves working.  In the dream, I am managing a  large American Christian bookstore, where I actually get to apply all the knowledge I have.  Heck, I’d settle for just working the aisles helping customers find the right boook or Bible.  But alas, I wake up each morning the realitty of having a great knowledge base that there isn’t a real hunger and thirst for.

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John Stott Remembered

Sorry to hear of the passing of British theologian and author John Stott.  As a young man running the warehouse for Inter-Varsity Press Canada, I remember Stott’s Basic Christianity as one of our constant top selling titles.   I’m away today and unable to post a link, but you’ll find info at Christianity Today.

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Toronto Star Reviews Common English Bible

A mention by Canada’s largest newspaper is sure to bring visibility and awareness to the Common English Bible, now available in a full edition with both Old and New Testaments.

The Toronto Star article on Friday also notes the involvement of a Canadian, Cynthia Long Westfall, a professor at McMaster Divinity College in Hamilton, Ontario.

Meanwhile, at USAToday Religion’s Faith and Reason blog, Cathy Lynn Grossman looks at the decision to change “Son of Man” to “The Human One.”

The Bible is available in Canada from Augsburg Fortress Press.  Sales manager Norm Robertson notes that various editions of the CEB have already gone into subsequent printings.

Previously Published As

A few months ago I posted a list of books I was aware of that have been published previously under different titles.   This sort of thing can drive customers and retailers nuts; but from the vantage point of authors and publishers, if a title doesn’t perform well, it certainly is deserving of another chance.

So here’s a couple to add to the collection:

  • This one will hit hard next month: Karen Kingsbury’s Remember Tuesday Morning is actually a re-issue of Every Now And Then.
  • Donita K. Paul’s only dragon-less title The Vanishing Sculptor resurfaces as The Dragons of Chiril.
  • Andy Stanley’s Enemies of the Heart,  releasing this fall, was previously issued as It Came from Within.
  • Max Lucado’s One Incredible Savior is a new title for One Incredible Moment.
  • Evidence for the Historical Jesus by Bill Wilson and Josh McDowell is a relaunch of He Walked Among Us.
  • Beth Moore’s My Child, My Princess began life as A Parable of the King (missing from our previous list)
  • Another forthcoming one, The Power of Prayer to Change Your Marriage by Stormie Omartian is a repackaging of Praying Through The Deeper Issues of Marriage.
  • The Revell pocket book, Boys Will Be Joys is the same as the previous Stark Raving Dad. 
  • Another Revell pocket book, Elizabeth Elliott’s Finding Your Way Through Loneliness is a retitling of The Path of Loneliness.
  • Unlocking Your Family Patterns which includes John Townsend among the author list, is actually a remake of Secrets of Your Family Tree.
  • The Man Who Makes a Difference by Jim George is another round for the book God’s Man of Influence.
  • Andy Andrew’s The Heart Mender is another life for Island of Saints.
  • We just found out the ’09 title, Quiet Confidence for a Woman’s Heart by Elizabeth George is the same as Powerful Promises for Every Woman.
  • H. Norman Wright’s homage to cats, Nine Lives To Live is the new title for The Purrfect Companion.

You might want to print this list, alongside the one linked in the first paragraph above. My favorite is still Larry Osborne’s 2009 re-issue Spirituality for the Rest of Us which was actually an update from the equally creative, but somewhat more obscure A Contrarian’s Guide To God

Did we miss any?  Does this happen in the general market to the same degree?  Do you notice how some publishers are more represented here than others?

Remembering David Duncan

We were sorry to learn today of the passing of David Duncan, who for many years held a senior executive position with R. G. Mitchell before moving on to work with the Canadian Bible Society.  Here is the information we received:

David Franklin Duncan July 18, 1941 – July 19, 2011

Suddenly at Markham Stouffville Hospital on Tuesday July 19th, 2011. David beloved husband of Connie.  Dear father of Faith (Kerry) Woodland, Donna (Jeff) Whitehead and David (Robyn) Duncan. Loving grandfather of Erin, Amy and David Whitehead, Thomas, Solomon, Levi and Tallis Woodland and David, Saul and Sage Duncan. David will be remembered by his sister, Donna (John) Kearns. Visitation will be held at Chapel Ridge Funeral Home, 8911 Woodbine Ave (4 lights north of Hwy 7) Markham, 905-305-8508 from 2 to 6 P.M. on Sunday July 24, 2011.

A funeral service will be held in the chapel on Monday morning at 10 o’clock. A private family interment will take place after the reception. In lieu of flowers, a donation may be made to Teen Challenge GTA Women’s Center, 1-877-979-7770.

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Music Price Adjustments Only Address One Price Point

I always hesitate to suggest to a supplier that they lower prices in light of the exchange rate on the Canadian dollar against its U.S. counterpart.  Lower prices add to the “deflationary” situation in which retailers north of “the 49th” have been and are being squeezed.  It still amazes me how many retailers in Canada don’t know the word “deflation” or what it means to them.

However, the recent price adjustment at Cook Canada, where a vast number of $13.99 U.S.  CDs were reduced from $17.99 CDN to $15.99 is a solution for only that particular — albeit it high in visibility — price point.  I was always able to justify the higher price to our staff and customers because of the Buy-5-Get-1-Free loyalty coupons, but customers don’t always factor in the coupon value.  We regularly see customers using their cell phones to compare online pricing. 

But what if there are no coupons?  Presently a large number of titles at 9.99 U.S. are listing for $12.99 CDN.  That’s a difference of 30% and I write this on a day when the CDN dollar is inching closer and closer to $1.06 U.S.  The concern is always “buying around;” where stores and customers circumvent domestic retail and wholesale distribution channels and take their purchases stateside.  But wholesalers like Cook are feeling the effects of deflation as well; there’s a natural reluctance to price cutting which may explain why the $13.99 CDs took so long to be adjusted.

How do we balance deflation with fair pricing? 

Recalling Days When Stores Did Double-Duty

Survival in the future may mean returning to models from the past.  In the part of Ontario, Canada where our stores are located, a trip along the Highway 401 corridor east from Oshawa in the 1980s would have meant visiting these Christian bookstores:

  • Bowmanville was — and still is — shared space between Durham Christian Books and Durham TV and Antenna, a business specializing in satellite television.
  • Trenton doubled as an accounting and bookkeeping office.  New Vision bookstore occupied the front, but a steady stream of business clients visited the offices in the back.
  • Belleville’s Fish & Dove was a dedicated Christian bookstore, but the owner acted as property manager for the shopping plaza; occasionally having to clear the store of customers and shut down if someone’s toilet was overflowing.
  • Napanee — and this is the best one — was Country Waterbeds and Christian books.  Two rather unlikely commodities, don’t you think?  I have a picture of the storefront which I will scan in when I can locate it. 
  • Kingston’s Logos Bookstore was also a dedicated store, but the owner also developed software for other bookstores and did itinerant preaching.
  • Brockville’s Armstrong Family Books — the one we purchased — was also a rental and property management office for a number of real estate holdings the owners had across the town.

The thing that strikes me most clearly this morning as I look for other options that will create sustainability of our own stores, is that not only did the bookshops in these cities do double duty, but they guaranteed that the owners had other income streams.   When I decided 16 years ago to do Christian retail “full out” in a small(er) town, I gave up other income-producing opportunities, including teaching part time at a Christian school, and being the worship leader of a local church.

Although Searchlight does some wholesale on remainder books and some limited product lines; today, if I could turn back the clock, that income situation would be the one thing I would change.

Borders Succumbs

In the end, time ran out, talks broke down and no new bidders stepped forward.  So the 400 remaining Borders and Waldenbooks stores will be remaindered throwing nearly 11,000 employees permanently out of work, and placing the deciding votes for the future of the U.S. publishing industry firmly in the hands of Amazon and Barnes and Noble. 

Borders’ home turf news source, notes:

In 2001, Borders signed a contract to allow to handle its online book sales — which was later considered to be the moment when Borders lost control of its online destiny.

In 2008, Borders ended that relationship, deciding to launch its own website — but, by that time, Amazon already had a stronghold in the online book sales marketplace. At the time of its bankruptcy, online sales made up only about 3 percent of Borders’ total revenue.

Why a 20% Decline in News Corp Shares Matters

I would have posted this a week ago, but I thought everyone had already connected the dots.  Rupert Murdoch owns News Corp.  News Corp in addition to owning 20th Century Fox, Dow Jones, and of course the now defunct News of the World Sunday British tabloid, owns HarperCollins.  HarperCollins owns Zondervan.  Zondervan is the world’s largest Bible publisher, and a major imprint for Christian books.  If Murdoch’s empire is in trouble, it means Zondervan’s source of funding could be hurting down the road.  If News Corp share price loses 20%, it means the value of the company and its holdings, including Zondervan diminishes.

RELATED:  Canadian Will Braun, former editor with Geez Magazine takes a rather cynical look at things with a few quotes from Shane Claiborne over at Sojourners Magazine.

Psalms DVD Fills a Gap in the Market

When a single-product supplier contacts me, the efficiencies of shipping and handling usually mean that as a small store, I’m rather dismissive.  But The Psalms: Extravagant Expressions of Worship sounded like the type of DVD product people have been asking for. 

This Canadian production is approximately sixty-seven minutes long, and divided into sixteen sections covering a total of 34 well-known Psalms. The menu at the beginning allows you to jump to any of these sections, or simply watch seamlessly from beginning to end.  The text is described as  “a literal translation, as true to the original Hebrew as possible, while still using contemporary syntax and modern English,” though it is not otherwise credited as to source.

The visuals represent over 900  breathtaking slides — with a few very brief video segments at transition points — with appropriate images linked to the text and always on screen at just the right time.   The video production looks best when viewed on a giant screen television; and usually dissolve between shots, though a small percentage of the transitions can be somewhat distracting. The underlying music soundtracks are instrumental worship songs, though for some reason, the first two are Brahms’s Lullaby and All Through The Night.

My only criticism would be that the narration.  While it was mixed at the right level, heartfelt, clear, and flawlessly rendered; it sounded like it had been recorded through a telephone.  The low-fi narrative track just didn’t match the higher quality of the visuals, and wasn’t what I expected; however I was able to get accustomed to it very quickly. 

The number of possible applications for this product are somewhat endless.  I could see it greatly benefiting a senior citizen or a group of seniors; or see it used as an alternative scripture reading in a church service.  There is no denying the care and detail that went into producing this product.

Worship Productions has set a suggested retail of $18.95 CDN, with variable discounts to stores depending on quantity ordered, with free freight on the initial order.  A demo copy for instore play will probably greatly add to the sales potential of this product.

You can learn more about the DVD at this website; watch a sample clip here;  learn more about Worship Productions;  and learn more about The Dwelling, the ministry organization that is presumably receiving a portion of the DVD sales.

Crown Video Deepens Discounts for Canadian Stores

Canadian bookstores having a wholesale account with Crown Video of Edmonton will have received an email over the weekend detailing expanded discounts on nearly 300 products, mostly DVDs, allowing lower retail prices.  The sale starts today and runs through the end of August.

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