Archive for March, 2013

Target Canada Offers Little Christian Product

target logoIf our visit to a Toronto Target store today is any indication, Canadian Christian bookstores can breathe a sigh of relief. Target’s book and music selections don’t come close to overlapping what is referred to in the US as CBA-merchandise. We couldn’t find anything in the CD department, there was a copy of Fireproof in the DVD department (at $9.99 compared to DCC list price of $18.99) and in the book department only the two Paul Young novels and a new mass market Ted Dekker novel.

Is this good news for Canadian Christian retailers? On the one hand, it means there is currently no threat of competition as Christian retailers in the U.S. occasionally face from the book and music and video departments of Wal-Mart and Target. On the other hand, the area we were in — at the East York Town Centre — is an island of high population density on the fringes of downtown Toronto, with a multi-ethnic demographic many of whom are commuters and are unlikely to make it to east Toronto’s Christian bookstore, which is for them, a world away.

That means that if we drop our competitive posture for a minute and focus instead on the spreading of a message, that message isn’t getting out through mainstream retailers in Canada as it is in the U.S. Conversely, some will argue that with Wal-Mart Canada’s forays into religious book buying consisting mostly of Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer, Christianity is being represented by authors that some feel do not speak for all Christians.

…Target Canada has bigger fish to fry however. Admittedly in the East York location they inherited what had to be a two-level store. This left a rather random placement of merchandise, although the special lift for shopping carts adjacent to the escalators provided some entertainment. My wife observed that the contracts that Target U.S. has with designers of women’s wear and men’s wear apparently don’t extend to Canada. Those departments were smaller than expected. In the men’s department, I counted seven racks of men’s shirts and hoodies that had neither signage nor pricing on the manufacturers size tags, though the racks were obviously picked over, inferring that signage had existed for the opening and then been removed. In the food department, import and labeling guidelines required that much of the initial food offerings were sourced here, meaning there was nothing particularly new or different.  The general impression was of a rather sloppy and haphazard approach to merchandising from a retailer who should know better, but in a few weeks, we’ll visit the Ajax, Ontario store which has a more familiar Target layout.


Everybody Loves the Bookstore, But Nobody Buys

Occasionally, we find a comic that crosses over into the realm of retailers, and this one has been on my desk since I read it on March 16th in The Hamilton Spectator. It’s ironic to include this at this particular blog however, since “Edge City follows a hip, Jewish-American family juggling relationships, careers and tradition at the fast pace of modern life.”  (In Canada, the Sunday panels appear in the Saturday newspapers, dating back to a time when Sunday papers didn’t exist here.) The comic is drawn by Terry and Patty LeBan. Visit their website at














Timing is Everything for Zondervan Author

When Ian Morgan Cron, author of Jesus, My Father, The CIA, and Me: A Memoir…of Sorts (and yes, that’s all one title) was preparing his latest work Chasing Francis, A Pilgrim’s Tale (much shorter title) for spring release, he probably never imagined that a book which deals with the life of St. Francis of Assisi would coincide with the name chosen by the Roman Catholic Church’s new Pope.

But what is Chasing Francis? Since the book is several titles back in my review pile, I can only say I’m not sure. Everything about the book screams fiction, but the category on the advance copy, with which the listing at Ingram/Spring Arbor agrees, indicates Religion or Christian living. A contemporary fictional story about a burned out pastor is used to present the story of the 12th Century friar and founder of the Franciscan order.

Previous authors have used a fiction platform to deliver theological, doctrinal and apologetics content, but the books have always ended up shelved in the fiction section. This one strikes me as, if anything, a title that might belong in the church history section, or, as it turns out, Catholic interest section; but one that would introduce more readers to the story of Francis were it allowed to stay true to itself, that is, a book written in the fiction genre. Regardless, you can’t beat the way the timing worked out. 

The book is scheduled for May 7th release in paperback from Zondervan, who will hopefully recognize they have a hotter title on their hands than they imagined, and move that date up as much as possible.

Chasing FrancisPublisher marketing:

Pastor Chase Falson has lost his faith-and he did it right in front of the congregation of his megachurch. Now the elders want him to take some time away. Far away. So Chase crosses the Atlantic to Italy to visit his uncle, a Franciscan priest, where he encounters the teachings of Francis of Assisi and rediscovers his ancient faith.

Chase Falson’s spiritual struggle rings so close to the truth that, at times, you’ll swear you’re reading a memoir rather than fiction; a memoir that mirrors the searching heart of a large movement within evangelicalism today.

Author, musician, and speaker Ian Morgan Cron sheds new light on the legacy of St. Francis of Assisi as he masterfully weaves actual accounts from the life of Francis into the fictional story of Chase Falson. It’s an amazing story with profound implications for the contemporary church today.

Biography of Pope Francis to Release April 30th

Pray For Me - Pope Francis biographyWith only days passed since the selection of a new spiritual leader for the world’s Roman Catholics, Random House wasted no time announcing Pray For Me: The Life and Spiritual Vision of Pope Francis, First Pope from the Americas. The 144-page title, by Robert Moynihan will be rushed to market in hardcover at $19.99US/$22.99CA in time for an April 30th street date.

From the founder and editor of Inside The Vatican magazine, the world’s most well informed, comprehensive monthly  on the Roman Catholic Church, comes this enlightening introduction to the life and spiritual teachings of Jorge Mario Bergoglio…

Top Bible Sales for 2012

From The Christian Bookseller’s Association:

 2012 – Based on Dollar Sales

1. New International Version
2. King James Version
3. New Living Translation
4. New King James Version
5. English Standard Version
6. Holman Christian Standard Bible
7. New American Standard Bible
8. Common English Bible
9. Reina Valera 1960
10. The Message

2012 – Based on Unit Sales

1. New Living Translation
2. New International Version
3. King James Version
4. New King James Version
5. English Standard Version
6. Common English Bible
7. Holman Christian Standard Bible
8. New American Standard Bible
9. Reina Valera 1960
10. New International Readers Version

as reported at Christian Post.

Crown Video Reorganizes

In an undated letter we received yesterday, Brad Mix of Christian DVD distributor Crown Video reported that its parent company, Precision Sound Corp. of Edmonton,  is in receivership and that “everything” — inventory and presumably distribution contracts — is being transferred to Word Alive in Winnipeg.  

The letter tries to clarify the relationship between Precision Sound and Crown, in one paragraph stating:

Although our parent company has gone into bankruptcy, as of now, Crown Entertainment has not. We were, however, sharing offices, warehouse, receptionist, shipping/receiving etc.

But in the next stating:

Since Precision Sound owned 100% of Crown Entertainment, Crown is now ultimately controlled by the Trustee in Bankruptcy.

The announcement is also unclear on the future of Crown vis-a-vis the new relationship with Word Alive:

We are still no (sic) 100% what will happen to Crown, but we do know we want to direct you to Word Alive for the DVD products we were carrying.

Web searches — including The Edmonton Journal and The Edmonton Sun — did not track any news stories on Precision Sound.  As of 9:00 AM EST Wednesday, websites at Precision, Crown and Word Alive did not reflect the information contained in the letter.

DVD sales in the Christian bookstore environment have, for many stores, represented the one department in which there was growth and prospects for continued growth. However, in the general market, companies like Blockbuster have had to face new models for online delivery of movies — such as Netflix — that are changing the way customers access video entertainment. It is unclear if this trend was instrumental in the Precision Sound story, but the company was invested in the manufacturing of physical sound and video product, as well as sound and lighting installation for educational institutions, corporations and churches.

If your Canadian retail store did not receive a copy of the letter, please indicate in the comments. We’ll delete the comment after forwarding you what we received.

Do Local Churches Know the Politics of Amazon?

On Thursday I posted a copy of a letter that I sent to a local church back in the fall of 2010. It surfaced here partly because while I now feel that a couple of pastors of that church give us a “first pass” on orders, the church in general bypasses us, and as the largest Evangelical church in town, I righteously covet their business.

Then on the weekend, sparked by a discussion with one of you, I posted the piece at Thinking Out Loud, “To My Fellow Bloggers;” or at least that’s how I chose to frame it for that edition. But the next logical step is to look at this issue as it would appear to impact local churches.  (The last paragraph here is modified from the weekend edition.) You can’t uphold certain values on one hand, and then toss them aside seconds later. Churches can’t have it both ways. This isn’t about debating a specific social issue, it’s about asking churches for consistency.

This originated as a letter to the same church described in the first paragraph in the hope that, three years later, things can still change.

Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought Gay marriage donations?

This week we were asked by a Christian bookstore manager, “How many people know that the founder of Amazon is the largest single donor to the cause of gay marriage?” Honestly, I didn’t know myself, and the amount, $2.5 M (US) is staggering. He told me, “Tell your local churches that are buying from Amazon just to type ‘Jeff Bezos’ and ‘gay marriage’ into a search engine for themselves.” A week later, I did this myself. There were many, many articles, but this one describes a behind-the-scenes look at the donation:

Thank Lesbian Jennifer Cast for Jeff Bezos’ Huge Gay Marriage Support

Like most of us, Jennifer Cast said she figured her former boss, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, was well aware of the threat to gay marriage in Washington State by the upcoming the ballot iniative and wrote to him, “I figured that if you felt the desire to support marriage equality, you would do it.” But, unlike many of us, this time she spoke up with a direct ask, and for the first time in twelve years working on the issue, Cast, 50, partners of 20+ years with Liffy Franklin, 63, emailed Bezos, “I beg you not to sit on the sidelines and hope the vote goes our way. Help us make it so.” She wrote, “We need help from straight people. To be very frank, we need help from wealthy straight people who care about us and who want to help us win.” She asked the billionaire for a contribution of $100,000 to $200,000. Within thirty-six hours he replied, “Jen, this is right for so many reasons. We’re in for $2.5 million. Jeff & MacKenzie”

This is the largest ever donation in support of marriage equality and it only happened because a lesbian spoke up and asked for it. Learn from her. The announcement also inspired other gifts, according to the Seattle Times, which reports, “Cast said she has received hundreds of emails since news of Bezos’ gift broke early Friday from well-wishers and those who suddenly wanted to give. One donor pledged $25,000.”

Jeff Bezos is worth $18.4 billion. Although William Lynch, the CEO of Barnes & Noble, isn’t a billionaire, his compensation last year was $10 million, going up to $15.3 million this year. He doesn’t have a connection to Washington State, but some of the Amazon haters need to ask Lynch for a significant donation. He can give to Maryland’s or to Maine’s campaign…

A link for this and what follows is available if you wish. The perspective below was actually from a gay website. The first line really sums up what’s happening even as you’re reading this.

Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought…gay marriage donations?: The founder of, Jeff Bezos, and his wife, MacKenzie, just donated 2.5 million to help pass Washington state’s Referendum 74, which would legalize gay marriage. The donation from Bezos, the 15th wealthiest man in America, has been called a “game changer” by Washington gay marriage campaigners.

I do not see how any Evangelical church — at least the conservative ones — possessing this information can continue to use Amazon as a source of supply for church and small group resources.  I would think they need to take a long, prayerful second look at that situation.

If Churches Want Online Bookstores, Bookstores Should Promote Online Churches

I actually sent this to one church in particular on June 29th, 2010. (I truly had nothing to lose at that point.) Found it in my files yesterday…

September begins a new season of ministry in our local churches.   In many cases, people new to the community stop at our store(s) to find out about local church opportunities.   We refer based on their history and the quality of the relationship we have with local pastors and staff.

On Monday, I was in Eastern Ontario and the topic came up of churches purchasing most of their materials online, and the question was asked, “What if you responded in kind when people were looking for a local church?”  Ah, yes indeed.    We never thought of that.  What if we did?

Keep reading…

Looking for a positive church experience for this fall?  

Consider the ONLINE option.   Many churches stream their services live and some offer after-service “chat” where you can discuss the sermon with others.  Others offer large audio and video sermon media libraries; many dating back ten years.   Here are the advantages:

  • choose the kind of teaching you like
  • choose from among the world’s finest pastors, authors and teachers
  • no need to rush to church on Sunday morning — a truly ‘green’ option
  • no need to dress up
  • no need to compete for parking or get kids checked into S.S. and nursery
  • download video to time-shift to a more convenient time
  • compress several sermons into a single day
  • re-watch segments you missed or want to understand better
  • no offering — give online when you want to
  • no offering or announcements down-time; every minute counts
  • no contrived “fellowship” in the middle with people you don’t know
  • no pressure to serve in any capacity in a local congregation

Contact us for information and customized recommendations on website links for sermon downloads and video podcasts ideally suited to you and your family.

Thank you to the many churches who helped convince us that direct-to-home online delivery is the better way to make ministry happen.

Categories: Uncategorized

Don’t Overlook The Potential of The Voice Bible

I have just ten pages left in The Story of The Voice, a little 120-page behind-the-scenes look at a Bible translation which, while I was well aware of it, I had not seen its true potential. These companion booklets tend to be a bit propagandist, but this one is not. Rather, it clearly delineates the process by which a totally unique Bible translation has come to market, somehow flying under the radar for many of us.   I’d put the companion book in the same class as How to Choose a Translation for All Its Worth by Mark Strauss and Gordon Fee, which is also an excellent insiders view of translation.

The Voice BibleWhile we’ve sold through and done reorders on various editions of The Voice, I guess the problem here — and I hate to sound like a broken record or a skipping CD — is that neither myself nor my key staff members have ever been given so much as a single gospel sampler of this edition. I totally treasure my new NIV Study Bible which was a gift from Zondervan. I am totally grateful to Foundation Distribution for the gift of the ESV Study Bible. Both sit on my coffee table and are used by the whole family and seen by visitors. But a copy of The Voice has simply never made it into my home, and that’s where I do most of my book discovery.

The little companion book is a step in the right direction. I need to get more excited about a history-making Bible project, even if I’m late to the party. But again, sending a review copy to every Christian blogger in the world is not going to make a speck of difference if retail frontliners — and apparently a few online sellers — aren’t on-board and excited. If it’s not processing at the checkout, the whole process is breaking down; and the creators of The Voice deserve a lot more of our attention.

I’ll be reviewing the companion book tomorrow at Thinking Out Loud.

Protect Your Business Name

Here in Ontario, every five years, in a year ending in a ‘3’ or an ‘8,’ I have to remember to update my Master Business License. There are no reminder messages sent when it comes up for renewal, so business owners need to note when the license expires. This also serves as a name registration so, for example if your store is Ichabod Christian Books, it prevents your friend Bob from setting up shop down the street as Ichabod Christian Books; at least without having to add some qualifying discriminator, such as Ichabod Christian Books of Salem (if he’s located in Salem, Ontario).

The next step in name protection is incorporation, which is done at the federal, not provincial level. Once you exist as Balaam’s Donkey Christian Supplies, Inc., no one else can be Balaam’s Donkey Christian Supplies as the name is incorporated.

Additional name security for your brand can be assured by creating a logo and then registering it as a trademark. Thus your little manger scene icon with the city of Jerusalem looming large in the background is placed next to your name, Herod’s Shadow Christian Store, and since it’s a registered trademark, nobody else can be Herod’s Shadow Christian Store. 

I really like that last name. I think just to be safe I’ll register all three examples used in this article.

Categories: Uncategorized

Knowing What to Do Next

I am convinced that if we seek to truly know the mind of God for our communities — God’s plans and purposes for our cities and towns — we would gain greater clarity in terms of how to proceed in our businesses, where to focus, what to order, who to market to, etc.; with the result that we would be able to carve out a unique plan and path for our particular stores which might be totally different from everyone else’s.

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Contemporary Christian Juno Nominees

The Canadian version of the Grammy Awards, the Juno Awards happens April 21st. In the category Best Contemporary Christian Album, the nominees are:

  • Hold On – Colin Barnard
  • Fighter – Manafest
  • Rebel Transmission – Newworldson
  • I Have a Dream (It Feels Like Home) – The City Harmonic
  • The End is Where We Begin – Thousand Foot Krutch

source: Faith Today magazine

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