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Archive for August, 2013

Increasingly, Book Depository is the New Competition

August 31, 2013 1 comment

In our industry we hear a lot of customers noting price comparisons from Am*zon and Christian Book Distributors (CBD) but increasingly, more and more customers are mentioning super-low online pricing with free shipping from bookdepository.com a trade name of The Book Depository International Limited located in Guernsey in the Channel Islands.  Here’s their story from their ‘about’ page.

Book DepositoryAbout The Book Depository (Guernsey)
The Book Depository (Guernsey) is the UK’s largest dedicated online bookseller, offering the largest range of titles in the world, available for dispatch within 48 hours. Founded in 2004 to make ‘All Books available to All’ we focus on selling ‘less of more’ rather than ‘more of less’, differentiating ourselves from other retailers who increasingly focus on bestsellers.

All books available to All
Currently, The Book Depository (Guernsey) is able to ship over nine million unique titles, within 48 hours, from our fulfilment centre in Gloucester, United Kingdom. This figure is increasing every day. Apart from publishers, distributors and wholesalers, we even list and supply books from other retailers.

Free Worldwide Delivery
The Book Depository (Guernsey) is an international bookseller shipping our books free of charge, worldwide, to over 100 countries. By working with various world postal authorities and other carriers, we are always looking to add more countries to this list.

How is it going?
The Book Depository (Guernsey) is the fastest growing bookseller in Europe, shipping to thousands of customers every day throughout the world. We have over a million customers and a reputation for extremely high service levels. A large percentage of our customers are very loyal, placing orders with us time and time again.

The Long Tail: why are we making as many books available as possible?
Of the 30 million titles ever printed in the English language only a few million of these are in print. We are seeking to make available as many of these titles as possible (and working to do the same with foreign language titles). This way, we will have the largest breadth of titles available in the world. Where books are no longer in print or poorly available we are seeking to make them available again by republishing. We do this through our Dodo Press imprint.

Deliveries do take a little longer, though…

Our books are despatched by Royal Mail and they suggest that the following timelines are an appropriate guide to how long you should expect for your books to reach you after they have been despatched by us:

Standard delivery United Kingdom 3-5 working days
Standard delivery Europe 7-10 working days
Standard delivery US & Canada up to 14 working days
Standard delivery Australia 7-10 working days
Standard delivery South America 10-15 working days
Rest of the World 7-10 working days

If they can’t supply a title…

Why we link out to AbeBooks

Our aim is to make “All books available to All”. AbeBooks, the world’s largest online marketplace for books, lists over 100 million second hand, rare, and out-of-print books from more than 13,500 booksellers. We show a link to AbeBooks when we believe the title in question is out of print so we can help our customers track them down.

But don’t leave their website without reading this little detail…

How does the Amazon acquisition affect The Book Depository customers?

The Book Depository and Amazon are aligned in wanting to ensure the best possible experience for customers. Working with Amazon we will look to continue to increase our vast selection of great titles and provide even better customer experience.

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Does Your Store Have a Mission Statement?

Over the years we’ve worked with many different mission statements; but the more your store’s vision sounds like that of a church, the more likely it is you’re doing it right.  At any given time, we might have answered the mission statement with any one of these:

  • To connect people with Christian resources to enhance their faith walk
  • To see Christian books, Bibles and music placed in families, neighbourhoods, schools and workplaces
  • To be a presence of the local church in the marketplace
  • To connect people with all that the body of Christ has to offer
  • To be a secondary, off-site place where people from local churches can connect
  • In the spiritual warfare that most face, we are the supply depot
  • Our goal is to introduce people to Jesus, to a Bible they can understand, and to a local church

If you’ve never had a mission statement for your store, it’s not too late to draft one. We recently posted this to our website.  Admittedly, it’s borrowed from a church in Kansas, but it’s a great summary of what should be the goal of every store owner, both in terms of personal mentoring and discipleship of others; and in terms of the store as a corporate entity:

Our Mission

Thomas Nelson Product Still Slow to Arrive in Canada

In Canada, Zondervan product is ordered through HarperCollins Canada. The system works well for bestsellers; an item ordered by 4:25 PM on Wednesday arrives in my store as early as 11:30 AM Friday, with free freight. But there are three little words that are, by all accounts, frustrating for many dealers: “Import to order.”  This means the item isn’t carried in Harper’s Canadian warehouse and you’re looking at an average of 3.5 weeks’ delay.

Zonder NelsonNow, with the addition of Thomas Nelson product to the mix, it seems that more dealers are getting more frustrated over more product delays.

When you place an order, sometimes it’s good to engage in some light conversation with order entry personnel, because you find out little tidbits about why the system seems to move so slowly on important items.

First, one Harper staff member told me that they only receive Zondervan product every two weeks. I checked around, and that’s different than, for example, David C. Cook Canada where product arrives weekly from suppliers such as Holman and Baker Books.

Second, Harper’s criteria for ITO status is the title must sell 30 units monthly to be stocked. That doesn’t seem like a lot, but when you consider the sheer number of Thomas Nelson titles, it means a greater number of titles are in ITO status, whereas with direct shipments from Nelson’s former warehouse, you got everything that was in print.  Furthermore, is it 30 days the previous month? A 90 day average? Updated monthly or quarterly?  it also isn’t known if this is a system-wide policy or if it just applies to Nelson/Zondervan titles.

Third, there is the constant mystery of product which is designated ITO but doesn’t ship. Is it awaiting reprint? Out of stock indefinitely? About to declared out of print? Nobody likes to be the customer pestering order entry staff for these types of answers, but dealers are often caught in the middle between the supplier and an impatient customer.

So what would you do if you were running HarperCollins? The warehouse is huge; there is definitely capacity to carry more items. Even a half dozen of some secondary titles, and 2s and 3s of tertiary titles might mean that fewer bookstores would be kept waiting. The company could easily implement something like this if it felt that religious books constituted a priority.

What about your other suppliers? How are you affected by backorder rates?

Blogger’s Nostagic Memory of Christian Bookstores Sparks Non-Sympathetic Comments

Blogging legend Tim Challies

Blogging legend Tim Challies

As the owner of a publishing venture, you’d expect Canadian uber-blogger Tim Challies to have opinions about the industry in which some of us still serve.  An internal search for the phrase “Christian bookstores” at Challies.com produces 200 results.  His latest — and it must be hard to come up with new topics on a daily basis — is more of a “down memory lane piece” remembering his earliest visits to such a store and how his early purchases influenced him positively.

The comments that followed were not necessarily kind. One reader offered a great deal of animosity toward the Christian bookstore industry:

I say good riddance. I’m sure someone who lived in the horse-and-buggy transition period could have talked about some of what we’ve lost when we moved to cars. In that case too the consumer’s win was the horse-and-buggy seller’s loss. But that’s a loss that serves the society as a whole in the end. The horse-and-buggy seller needs to get into the car business if he wants a similar vein of work. Likewise, the Christian bookstore industry needs to move online. Some of them already have, obviously, and there is a lot more that could be said here… But in the end what we’ve gained far far outweighs what we’ve lost and what we’ve gained could have never been accommodated by the old guard. No local Christian bookstore (or bookstore, period) could have given me the range, quality, and price of books that I now have through Amazon.

I’ve heard this logic before. It goes like this: “If the railroads had seen themselves as being in the transportation business instead of in the railroad business, today they would own the airlines.” But it’s an argument that doesn’t always work. When the airlines were introduced, and trans-Atlantic flight was reduced from 6 days to 6 hours, the ocean liners simply repositioned themselves as cruise ships; moving people in a circle instead of from point A to point B.

And many Christian bookstores function as a marketplace extension of the local church, which, last time I checked, is doing more in-person ministry than online ministry.

One reader attempts to point out what we’ve pointed out here, namely that the philosophy and priorities of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos are at odds with orthodox Christianity:

Your supporting a huge multinational corporation that hates you just to save a few dollars. Repent

But blogger Tim Challies simply won’t be swayed by that — he knows on which side his bread is buttered — and replies:

[I’d delete this, but the combination of hubris and bad grammar is too entertaining. Don’t feed the trolls. -Moderator]

(For the record, if you make the you’re/your mistake here, we just correct it for you.)

The original commenter simply laughs in the face of any kind of moral reasoning:

Lol… And why should I think it is sinful to support a huge multinational corporation? Or why think it’s sinful to support someone who hates me (granting for sake of argument that Amazon hates me)? And it’s not just that they save me some dollars. They also provide me with a great selection of books and a convenient service that I couldn’t get elsewhere.

And you think that calls for repentance? I sincerely hope you’re just being satirical of those who confuse the gospel with a progressivist economic theory.

We covered some of the politics of Amazon here in March with this article.

Fortunately, much like some poisonous animals, the commenter in question runs out of venom and leaves the discussion, and the things that follow from about the half-way mark make for more balanced reading, including comments from people who have worked in or are currently employed in Christian bookstores.

Tim Challies blog has a large enough following that he can write a summer ‘filler’ piece and still be assured of comments. You might want to read it, but the arrogance of the one bookstore detractor is extremely distressing as is Tim’s refusal to take a moral high ground and join the Christian minority who actually care about where they spend their money.

Christian Book Shop Talk Enters Year Six

Book Shop Talk 5th BirthdayIt’s our fifth birthday.

This WordPress blog was begun five years ago when I was looking for a venue to comment about book industry issues in a way that I couldn’t on my regular blog, Thinking Out Loud.

What I didn’t know was that less than 30 days later, the largest supplier in our Canadian Christian publishing industry would be plunged into bankruptcy and store owners and publishers would be looking for news and information. While we don’t currently see the same kind of numbers as some peak days during that crisis, readership remains steady, though most comments come to me as direct emails, not on the blog. But in most cases, I really don’t know who the readers are, though if I mis-report something, I hear about it very, very quickly!

Over the last few days, for example:

  • 64% Canadian readers
  • 23% U.S. readers
  • 9% U.K. readers
  • 4% other

So we’ve kept our Canadian identity somewhat, but we still get checked out by U.S. industry people, depending on the keywords that are used to tag the story, and other content.  It’s also assumed here that people read Christian Retailing magazine and are subscribed online.

Despite 38 years in the business, I’m not exactly an industry insider, in fact outsider seems more appropriate some days.  I offer opinions and observations that I feel will be helpful to my readers, but tend to avoid conferences and trade shows.

Over the next few weeks, our own business, Searchlight, will be getting more aggressive about offering remainder product wholesale. Most of it will be sold in “sorter’s lots” of premixed boxes, but we want to earn the trust of customers who come to us, and want the word to spread through people being pleasantly surprised.  Some of that information will appear here. Otherwise, the blog is not in any way monetized nor is there in hidden agenda; what you see is what you get!

And we’re always looking for guest writers. This was never intended to reflect the opinions of one individual. Written contributions are always welcome, as are links to other media you feel bookstores would benefit from reading. We also had hoped suppliers would send us press releases to announce new lines, new staff appointments, etc., but our publisher representatives and distributors have not embraced that concept. Several times we’ve been left sitting on a story we’ve been told should be “held” for an official announcement, and then the same suppliers simply don’t announce the details to us or anyone else. Canada can be a bit of a backwater sometimes.

I hope those of you who stop here regularly have found some benefit from this, and that you’ll tell your industry friends that we’re here. You’re also encouraged to visit my primary blog, Thinking Out Loud, the devotional blog Christianity 201, and to check out what our own store is doing on Facebook, and to follow my Twitter feed.  And agents and publishers: Keep the free books coming!

Give Customers a Free Taste of Top Authors

I’ve begun a new strategy which involves letting customers get content for free.

No, I’m not crazy. I’m simply telling my customers where to go to find audio or video content by some of my top authors. Then, I tell them when they come back to buy the book(s) in question, as they read, they’ll hear that author’s voice in their head.

I’m hoping that by developing a taste for an author’s ministry, they’ll want to pursue what that author has in print. A few of my customers are taking the challenge. When I read Steven Furtick or Kyle Idleman or even Max Lucado, it’s now their vocal mannerisms and inflections that I hear.

If an author is a pastor, then their church’s media page is the best place to go. But there’s also a wealth of material available on YouTube and Vimeo.  For example, for Francis Chan, I tell them to go to YouTube and type in “Francis Chan balance beam.” This will take them to a short excerpt that I believe will whet their appetite for more. For other authors who aren’t pastors, Liberty University has a page devoted to its weekly convocation speakers, which includes many of the writers we sell. Again, at YouTube, just type “Liberty convocation.” But most of my top authors are also pastors; just get the name of the church right, and then select sermon audio or sermon video from their webpage.

Try this in your store and let me know how it works out.

Tomorrow: Christian Book Shop Talk celebrates five years online!

Trade Book Industry Becomes Increasingly Limited

It’s that time of year when I’m reminded over and over again the extent to which book trade retailers are relatively shut out of textbook marketing. There are some titles available, but generally speaking, the discounts make it prohibitive to do so, and a single customer reneging on a $60 short-discount book can be devastating to a small business. Activating dormant accounts with academic publishers is also costly when processing and payment is factored in.

Of course we’re also shut out of music downloads — except for the largest stores than can afford to put in a burn bar — as well as the whole eBook sector.

WalMart VeggieTales couponWorse, we get excluded from special offers put through for special retailers; examples of which:

  • A Joyce Meyer 60-minute DVD and 48-page book at Sam’s Club for $7.97 (neither sold in stores)
  • A Veggie Tales buy-1-get-1-free offer at WalMart (see image at right; this was attached to product we received) with a bonus upload
  • A special paperback of a Thomas Nelson title granted to CBD; not even international editions were available in paper; CBD needs only buy 5,000 to get this offer 
  • The special editions offered in what is called the “premium” market to broadcast TV and radio ministries
  • The large number of authors who make curriculum offers exclusively on their websites
  • The vast number of out-of-print titles that were going to be available as print-on-demand, until eBooks were simply too easy a solution
  • The countless number of music singles now being played on Christian radio which are exclusive to iTunes

Of course, added to the frustration is having to explain the textbook market to customers who don’t see the distinction. To them, a book is a book.

CBD Scales Back Music Marketing in Print

August 20, 2013 1 comment

CBD Fall 2013While the Christianbook.com website is buzzing with music releases, customers looking for the latest tunes in the 96-page September-October print catalog are in for a shock: There’s only 13 CDs listed.

The baker’s dozen music items consist of the new WoW 2014 CD on page 2, and a top dozen in another part of the catalog. While we didn’t see any children’s music-only resources, it’s possible that there are a few of those.

CBD’s catalogs consist of regular numbered pages as well as a series of pages inserted into the middle in some editions, but not others.  So presumably everyone gets pages 1-64, and some people get pages A1-A32. (Does anyone know why they do this?) The music is on a half page in the insert section. The rest of the media pages in the catalog are devoted to DVDs.

The question of course is: Why?  Why has a major mail-order and online retailer chosen to so radically de-emphasize its music department in print? Of course the downloads have never been listed in the print catalog but over the years CDs and accompaniment discs played a big part.

Is this a signal that music sales are declining faster than anyone wants to admit? Wouldn’t it make more sense to make music cutbacks after the Christmas gift-giving season? We’ll have to wait for the November-December edition to speculate on CBD’s long-term strategy.

Tyndale Ends Exclusive Distribution in the UK

August 19, 2013 1 comment

Earlier this month, UK booksellers found out via an American trade website that Tyndale House was moving from an exclusive distribution arrangement with Trust Media Distribution to a distribution model that includes Trust Media along with Christian Literature Crusade and InterVarsity Press. Here in Canada, exclusive distribution deals are normative, but as far back as 1989, Triwel Publishing, which was then the #2 distributor in Canada, was pushing to see the Canadian market open up with independent distributors such as Spring Arbor (now Ingram), Riverside and Anchor.

Does the UK paradigm shift open up similar possibilities for Canada? The population difference and cultural plurality of Canada make it unlikely, but much depends on how both consumers and retailers find out about forthcoming products.

Read the article at UK Christian Book Shop Blog.

Philip Yancey’s New Title Releases as eBook Four Months Ahead of Print Edition

The-Question-That-Wont-Go-Away-Book-Cover1-682x1024In order to respond to recent news events, the eBook edition is now. The print edition is still months away. Philip Yancey explains:

…Traditional publishers wanted a year to publish the new book.  (As a magazine editor I could never figure out why book publishers needed such a long lead time.  Then, again, newspaper editors couldn’t understand why magazines needed several months’ lead time!)  We decided to go to press more quickly, by releasing an e-book right away.  For the next few months, we’ll have the e-book available for purchase even though the hard copy won’t be released until sometime in December.

When I went to Newtown in December 2012, I asked the publisher of my first book, Where Is God When It Hurts?, if they could donate some copies to the folks in Connecticut who were hurting.  “We’ll do better than that,” they said.  “We’ll make the electronic book available free for two weeks for anybody.”…

…[continue reading here]…

Where in the World Books are Published

This has been online for ten months now, but I hadn’t seen it before today. The picture is also a link which takes you to an article which contains a link to a detailed report with stats to back up what you see visually.

As you can see, places like the U.S., Europe, and parts of Asia are engorged in illustration of their strong publishing industries. Meanwhile, Africa and the Middle East are tiny slivers, meaning that the number of books published in those places is extremely low compared to the rest of the world. As per the map some countries have significantly stronger global voices through books; the report aims to show where book publishing can grow.

~Atlantic Wire; click image below to source

World Map Proportionate to Publishing

Categories: Uncategorized

Send the Light Introduces an Adjustable Auto-Release Program

It’s an idea so good I wish I had thought of it. Actually, I did dream of it, but never thought I’d see the day.

Basically, if you sign up for the automatic release program at Send the Light Distribution

  • Every 60 days on the first of the month you get an email instructing you to login to your account, where a list of applicable titles awaits
  • You then have until the 10th of the month to review the list and make changes
  • You can double some quantities, and remove others entirely
  • Then, after the 10th, the order merges with the next regular order you place after the 10th.
  • Regular returns policy applies

The downside to this? I don’t see one. The upside? It’s what my kids call a win. Especially if you’ve ever missed out on knowing something was releasing because you didn’t get or bother to read the catalog in question, or you weren’t paying attention in that part of the sales call. It’s even tempting for those of us who do monitor their “New Releases” page every day, as it focuses entirely on books.

Your shipment is completely customized by you.   Like I said, a win.

Categories: Uncategorized