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Archive for September, 2011

Review: Toronto’s Greg Paul, Book Three

A quiet day today, so enjoy this book review from Thinking Out Loud…


A couple of years ago, I was fortunate enough to hear Greg Paul speak at a conference west of Toronto. Around the same time, my wife was part of a group that works with destitute and disadvantaged people who got to spend the day with Greg as he explained his ministry organization and answered questions.

Because I was familiar with what that organization, Sanctuary, does in downtown Toronto, I did not read God in the Alley or the Twenty Piece Shuffle, so I was unacquainted with Greg Paul the writer. I was more than pleasantly surprised, and I suppose it’s not too late to catch up on his backlist titles.

In Close Enough to Hear God Breathe (Thomas Nelson), Greg takes his own family story, and stories of the street people he has come to know and uses them as a motif for understanding God’s workings throughout history, and throughout our personal history as well. Although the book is very autobiographical, I suspect there are elements of his family’s story which overlap on your own.

The larger story, of which we are all a part, is looked at in four stages: Creation, Fall, Redemption and Consummation and provides a structure for otherwise what might appear as random snapshots.

More than two-thirds of the way through, I began to ask, “Where have I seen this style before, where an author’s personal journey is so embedded in the presentation of a much larger picture?” Then I realized the answer: Philip Yancey. There are great similarities between the two, and I believe, given my stated affection for the renown writer, that comparison can serve as my highest commendation for this book by Greg Paul.

~Book has been provided courtesy of Thomas Nelson and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favorite bookseller from Thomas Nelson.

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Missing Anything?

Ever wonder if there’s a breaking release that your sales reps just didn’t cover? Christian Retailing has a New Release Listings page I hadn’t studied before.  It divides material into categories so different buyers and use it for their department. (Publishers can upload titles, too.)

For real dog’s breakfast of items, you can’t beat the New Releases page at STL, which lists everything they’ve added in the past 60 days, including uploads of entire publisher lists from vendors who are new to them.  (Buyers can sort by category.) But it doesn’t allow you to look ahead, just everything officially dated up to today; so you have to check back each morning.

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Chart Activity

On the Bookstore Manager list for September 24th, Joel Osteen’s Every Day A Friday ranks number three. What is significant here is that less than a quarter of the reporting stores carry the title, but the average number of copies sold in those stores was unusually high.

Another anomaly occurs on the October 2nd e-book listing at the New York Times bestseller list. Heaven is for Real gets denied the top spot, but it gets dethroned by Thunder Dog, another Thomas Nelson title about a rescue dog that played a role in the September 11th story.

THUNDER DOG, by Michael Hingson with Susy Flory. (Thomas Nelson.) A blind man and his guide dog show the power of trust and courage in the midst of devastating terror on Sept. 11.

Finally, looking at CBD’s top ten list for September 28th, we see three bargain books. Furthermore, Know Your Bible, How To Pray and 199 Promises of God aren’t even reduced, just listed at their 99-cent price from Barbour, unless you buy ten or more.

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Independent Authors Desperate for Sales

You’ve just opened your store for business, and someone walks in with a card table, a stack of books and a cash box and proposes to start selling their self-produced books in your store.  Crazy, right?

Not really.  That’s what happens when stores are not diligent about policing comments left on their store blog or store Facebook page.  This morning I found that an author had friended/liked our page in order that she could paste a comment which consisted of promotion for her book.  But the placement was totally inappropriate, it was an item about a local Christian marriage and family counselor; not that it would have been acceptable anywhere else. Insensitive on two counts.

So I removed the comment and banned the user from the page. 

I recommend you do the same.

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Dollar Continues Trend from Previous Week

The Canadian dollar was trading at noon Monday at 0.9672 USD; down from Friday’s close at 0.9714 USD. Invoices you didn’t pay early last week are now costing about $5.00 more per $100.00 .

Update 4:00 PM — The dollar actually closed up from Friday’s close at 0.9725 USD

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Christian Bookstores for Sale

Over the last few days we have received information about two stores and wanted to mention one of our own:

  • We’ve received a copy of a real estate listing for a store for sale in Alberta.  This is a large volume store, and the sale price includes the property and building.  We can forward you the real estate listing, but for the simply curious, please note that it does not indicate the store name or city directly.
  • The B.C. Anglican notes the sale offering of a store in Victoria as the owner wishes to retire after 28 years.  We can forward that to you by email, or you can access it online in the September issue at http://www.bc.anglican.ca/pages/news/diocesanpost.html
  • One of our own stores, Searchlight in Brockville, Ontario is also for sale.  This store is in need of a purchaser who actually lives in the city who can get involved in re-branding and re-promoting the store and/or a multi-site retailer who is willing to invest time in building church and community support.
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Mixed Feelings about Belieber

Today we took delivery of the new title about the faith foundation in Justin Bieber’s life: Belieber: Fame, Faith and the Heart of Justin Bieber.  Although I didn’t review this title — I was curious but didn’t ask for a copy — I took more than the usual time to flip through Cathleen Falsani’s first CBA title since her look at the Coen brothers for Zondervan, and what is one of the first releases by new imprint Worthy Publishing.

On the one hand, pages 211-213 make it clear that Falsani did not have any direct contact with Justin Bieber or his family.  That’s disappointing.  Then again, I don’t know if Stephen Mansfield has had or been denied similar access to the people he profiles in his “The Faith Of…” series.

On the other hand, pages 223-229 contain the over two hundred footnotes; which provide a glimpse into the exhaustive research that went into this work.

Belieber is a title that will give some profile to Worthy Publishing, which is being marketed in the U.S. through the sales force and distribution network of a music supplier, EMI Christian Music Group.  But it’s also a bit of a risk, as the story of J.B. is still evolving.

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Random House Photo Comment on Present Trends

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Dollar Continues Slide on Thursday

In case you missed it, the Canadian dollar was trading today in 96-cent territory today.  Yes, really.  At noon, the dollar was at 0.9681 USD, but closed up slightly at 0.9733 USD.

~Bank of Canada rate page

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The Market Segment That Dominates Isn’t The Only Market

September 22, 2011 5 comments

When Mere Churchianity author Michael Spencer passed away, the reins of the media venture he was best known for, the Internet Monk blog, passed to Chaplain Mike, who wrote the following article recently showing the kind of Christian bookstore he would like to see.  Mike represents a customer segment that tends to get overlooked when we get focused on Top 100 lists, and a rather finite list of publishers…

Last week, our local Borders bookstore closed, as they are doing everywhere across the country. On my final visit, I was able to pick up eight or nine books for $1.00 each. On any other day, that would have been a cause for celebration. On this day, I had a sick feeling in my stomach.

We still have Barnes & Noble, thankfully. And I’ve used my Amazon Prime shipping membership this year to fullest advantage. Nevertheless, it was Borders where we went most regularly, so it will be missed.

Religion News Service ran a feature on Sept. 16 on the push for Christian bookstores to take advantage of Borders’ closing.

After Borders announced its liquidation in July, Colorado Springs, Colo.-based CBA sent an alert to member stores: “Post Borders Growth Strategy: As Borders Shuts its Doors, Christian Booksellers Should Open Theirs Wider.”

“Today, Borders is irrelevant in the world of bookselling,” the document states. “If we do not adapt to the changing marketplace and new technologies, our influence will diminish or disappear altogether.”

The letter offers suggestions for retailers including discounts for customers with Borders loyalty cards and trying to lure former Borders customers into Christian stores.

“It is always sad when a bookstore that makes Christian materials available to the public can no longer do that,” said Curtis Riskey, CBA executive director. “However, the chain’s demise does create more opportunities for independent local Christian stores to fill the gap.”

Ain’t gonna happen. At least not with this book junkie.

Not until I can go to my local Family Christian Store or independent Christian bookstore and…

  • Find serious works about theology by people who aren’t named Wayne Grudem.
  • Find actual books about church history that explore what happened before the church growth movement.
  • Find a good selection of books by mainline Protestant authors.
  • Find a section in the store that contains a good selection of substantial contributions by Roman Catholic and Orthodox writers.
  • Find books and resources that deal with the church year, the lectionary, liturgical worship, religious art, various church denominations and traditions, hymnody, and serious Christian thinking about the arts and sciences.
  • Peruse a good stock of real Christian music such as Bach, traditional choral works, and renditions of hymns and gospel songs that don’t all come from the Smokey Mountains or Alexandria, Indiana.
  • Not have to see Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, and T.D. Jakes, et al, smiling at me from piled-high displays at the front of the store.
  • Find works of serious literature and fiction that aren’t about demon invasions, car crashes on the interstate because of the rapture, or forbidden Amish romances.
  • Find useful pastoral resources other than attendance books, Sunday School prizes, and candles for the Christmas Eve service. And, for heaven’s sake, can we have some pastoral theology books and helps that go beyond “How to Grow Your Church” or “How to Organize Your Church”?
  • Find a decent section of personal and corporate devotional resources that don’t have the word “Chicken Soup” in the title. Book of Common Prayer or a hymnal, anyone?
  • Talk to a store clerk or manager who actually realizes that not all churches are named, “Replenish” or “Encounter,” that they do not all exist in white suburbia serving lattes at their coffee bars, and that it was possible to worship before Chris Tomlin started writing songs.
  • Find serious commentaries and works of Biblical study written by actual scholars, and not by folks with names like John MacArthur or Beth Moore.

I found most of those things at Borders. I rarely find those things at my local “Christian” bookstore. As a result, I hardly ever stop by any more. They have defined “Christian” far too narrowly and are missing out on a vast market that they will probably never even consider.

Steve Potratz, the CEO of The Parable Group, which provides marketing for 109 Christian retailers, including 40 Parable franchise stores, says they are doing more online advertising to attract new customers while Borders liquidates. Some stores are offering more gifts, and by year’s end, e-books to accommodate demand.

Please note. We’re increasing the marketing push. No word about improving the quality and comprehensiveness of store inventory.

Their focus remains narrow, as they seek to serve “a niche audience that shares the same passionate beliefs.”

“We know where most of our customers are on Sunday morning,” Potratz said. “The opportunity to work with a church, and partner with a church, is critical, and I am seeing more and more of our stores looking for and gaining opportunity to help and resource the church.”

Sorry, Steve. What you are doing is seeking “to help and resource” a small segment of the “Christian” market. If the church even begins to do its job of bringing people to maturity in Christ, the pablum you offer will soon cease to satisfy. And meanwhile, those of us in the post-evangelical wilderness may stop by once or twice a year to buy a card for a religious occasion or something like that.

If you’d like to talk, you can find me at Barnes & Noble.

Jabez Author Returns with The God Pocket

I’ve watched this video a couple of times; but I’m not sure I get where Bruce Wilkinson is going with The God Pocket.  Is there some ancillary item called a “God Pocket” we should be carrying with this, or is he speaking figuratively?  The video isn’t clear so I checked the publisher marketing:

God wants to put a face on giving – and the face he has in mind is not yours, but his. What if you could take something out of your pocket today that would make God wonderfully personal and absolutely real to someone who, only minutes earlier, had been secretly calling out to God for help, for an answer, for any shred of evidence that He cares?

Discover the incredible resource that’s small enough to fit in your wallet or purse, yet big enough to change someone’s life – starting with yours. In “The God Pocket,” Bruce Wilkinson tells you what that little something is, explains how to deliver God’s provision to someone in need, and shares how God is ready to reveal Himself through you.

The God Pocket Prayer
Dear God,
Today I ask to be sent to show Your love and deliver Your funds to the person You choose. I carry Your provision in my God Pocket, and I am ready and willing. I am Your servant, Lord. Whenever You nudge me, I will respond! Here am I – please send me!

So I suppose he’s talking about giving, and the God Pocket is some kind of ‘wrapper’ for a money gift which is a token of financial encouragement, which I suppose you can design/create yourself; but in giving, there has been some advance preparation and prayer.

But that’s just a guess.  There are no consumer reviews on this product online yet.  The hardcover from Multnomah is fully titled: The God Pocket: He Owns It. You Carry It. Suddenly Everything Changes.

Update: One blogger mentions that the concept of “the God pocket” is introduced in You Were Born for This:

One concept that was very inspiring was the God Pocket.  He encourages Christians to set aside an amount of money (maybe $20) that they always keep tucked away in the billfold or pocketbook.  That money is to be used in the lives of others as needs present themselves.  He told the story of feeling led to leave all $20 as a tip for a waitress.  She came to him before he left in tears explaining that she was a single parent and had prayed God would provide the money she needed for medicine for her ill child.

Another wrote about You Were Born…:

A buzzword he coined “God Pocket” blessed my socks off.  I have a tendency to be what is kindest to call “thoughtlessly generous”– generous without giving thought to if it is how the Lord would want me to give.  I’m a need meeter.  If I see a need, I have the funds/ability, I try to meet it.  I love to try to help meet needs.  However, just because there is a need, and just because I can meet it, doesn’t mean that I am the best one for it and it’s hard to know when/where/how.  His idea of  the “God Pocket” really encouraged me to become deliberate in preparing to meet needs rather than reacting to the needs in front of me.  I think it is what I’ll take from the book and use/value the longest.

So my guess wasn’t too far off.

Closed Bookstore Photo Gallery

September 20, 2011 2 comments

This is a rather sad subject for a photo essay, and there will be people reading this who might prefer not to click today’s link as it somehow hits too close to home.  For everyone else, however, here is a piece entitled 25 Depressing Portraits of Closed Bookstores.

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