Archive for November, 2014

The Commentaries Pastors Use

A few weekends ago, Ruth and I did the music at a retreat where, on the first morning, the guest pastor got up to speak and instead of a regular Bible, had the Jesus Storybook Bible, which was also endorsed as a must-read for adults, but also new believers.

Now I’m thinking maybe this is a trend:

Bruxy Cavey Commentaries

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The Changing Landscape of Publishing

Tim Underwood tweeted this out this morning, and I’m taking the liberty of reblogging it here. Basically, it is the lecture notes taken by Nancy J. Cohen at a two day conference in St. Petersburg of a speech given in October by author Hugh C. Howey.  To read at source, click the title below and then check out the rest of her blog which is all about the book industry.

Changes in Publishing: Who Will Survive?

Hugh Howey: The Publishing World is Changing. How Can You Keep Up?
Novelists, Inc. Conference Day 2, St. Pete Beach Oct. 2014

Hugh Howey began his presentation by showing slides on “A history of storytelling.” The order goes this way:

  • Oral tradition
  • Written tradition
  • The first cubicle workers, i.e. monks transcribing by hand
  • Movable type
  • Offset and digital in 1990
  • Electronic publishing 2007

He recommends reading “The Storytelling Animal.”

Bar codes revolutionized sales in that data could be tracked. This led to massive discounting. In 1995, Amazon went live. In 2014, indie bookstores see a 20% growth in openings since 2007.

Book selling is like the game: scissors, paper, rock. You have the big-box chains, online retailers, and indie bookstores. Amazon beats the chains. Indies beat Amazon on their location, curation, and community. Publisher profits have risen, but digital is subsidizing print. Business costs and author royalties for digital are much less for publishers and their profit margin is up. So digital is saving publishers, and Amazon is saving indie bookstores.

There’s less downtime between reads for readers. They want immediate downloads. The guilt of the TBR pile is gone. Clutter is no longer a dissuasion for buying more books.

Digital includes e-books, audio, and print-on-demand books. “I can’t stress enough how crazy audio is, and that’s part of digital.”

Three variables determine author income: the number of titles sold, the price of the title, and the author royalty rate.

Romance is the bestselling book genre in terms of author earnings. Mysteries and thrillers are next.

Self-published royalties surpass traditionally published royalties. Digital is about 70% of the market. 40% of print sales now are on Amazon, not including print-on-demand.

The top 20 Amazon bestsellers in each category:

  • Mystery/thriller: 4 audio, 1 hardcover, 1 paperback, 14 e-books
  • Science fiction/fantasy: 5 audio, 15 e-books, no print
  • Romance: 20 e-books
  • Fiction/literature: 4 audio, 1 hardcover, 1 paperback, 14 e-books
  • History: 2 audio, 7 hardcover, 4 paperback, 7 e-books
  • Teen: 1 hardcover, 5 paperbacks, 14 e-books

Publishers are more profitable as the cost of production and distribution has gone to nearly zero. Big bookstores are going under while Indies take more of the market share. Expectation and output paths are converging, such as author platform and professional book production. The number of people making a living at writing has gone up from tenfold to fiftyfold. The chances are slim but it’s doable to make it as a writer.

Publishing is moving to the West Coast. Amazon, Google, and Apple will become prominent publishers along with other tech companies. Indie bookstores will survive. The real threat is the decline in recreational book reading.

Who will survive?

  • Publishers who pay well and price their books right
  • Retailers who curate well
  • Anyone who aids discoverability
  • Partners who increase distribution
  • Freelancers who raise quality
  • Toolmakers who increase quantity
  • Locales that create an addictive book culture

Note: Any errors in this article are due to my interpretation.

A Taxing Challenge

Our store is located in a province which has the HST, the Harmonized Sales Tax which includes both provincial and federal tax components. However, because books are not subject to the provincial tax*, and also because we sell non-book items, our transaction summary at the end of the day shows amounts in two columns, Tax 1 and Tax 2.

Two weekends ago we did a book table at a women’s conference, and although we brought some CDs, some boxed cards, and some jewelry items, we did not have a lot of activity in the Tax 2 column. These women were serious book buyers and it was very fulfilling to think of the various resources we sold that day going into homes, workplaces, neighbourhoods and extended families.

In contrast, I had a day at the store the following week in which there wasn’t a single transaction that day that didn’t have a Tax 2 component. I’m glad that we were able to help people get those Bible cases, DVDs, CDs, highlighters, picture frames, and those little $1 (US) packages of tissue that got really popular after we left them on the counter.

But our purpose is to sell books and Bibles, though I’ve learned that getting those hardcore readers at a conference is a lot easier than attracting them to the store on a daily basis.  Turning non-book customers into readers is a challenge, but it’s something we somewhat hint at when they’re checking out. And turning fiction readers into buyers of serious Bible study material or parenting resources can also be challenging, but again, it’s something we aim for.

I think some customers are genuinely scared of getting into our doctrinal or reference books. They’re happy buying mugs and plaques and boxed cards, but don’t dare suggest they might like to try one of our bestselling entry-level Christian books like Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman or Grave Robber by Mark Batterson.

But dare we must. We’re there to sell books and to raise the spiritual temperature of our customers. And we’re going to keep trying.

*Despite the provincial exemption, books are still subject to the federal or GST portion of harmonized tax. This makes Canada one of a very small number of nations that taxes literacy.


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Black Friday Savings

Black Friday

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Nazarene Publishing / Beacon Hill: Not Closing After All

From the EPCA website Rush to Press:

Nazarene Publishing House will not close for business, but undergo a restructure, according to Interim CEO Mark Brown. All imprints of WordAction Curriculum and Beacon Hill Books, will continue uninterrupted. “It’s true that our business model will change December 2, 2014 based on our current financial situation,” Brown said. “However, NPH management is developing a new strategic plan, and we look forward to continuing to meet the literature needs of the Church of the Nazarene and our Wesleyan partners.”

continue reading here

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The Case for Print

Author Dan Kimball, who is part of a generation that might be more willing to embrace electronic publishing, posted this at Facebook:

“Bring back old school print Bibles to read and carry” was my fellow black leather Bible buddy Dave Lomas from Reality San Francisco ‘s mission cry who taught today at Vintage Faith Church. We both have black leather Bibles where we can draw doodles, underline, color and we are convinced your even learn better with them. Which is ironic coming from two of us living in San Francisco and the Silicon Valley where technology rules. I join Dave in the mission to see hard copy Bibles in hand once again and go retro learning and reading.

Comments included:

  • Studies say comprehension is better, you get a “deeper” connection when holding printed texts compared to a screen. Screens encourage skimming, and it is harder to concentrate.
  • All about the real non-technology bibles. Got a handy brown leather bound ESV myself. I love how you can feel, smell, and write notes in them. Ya can’t do that with technology. I just think it makes your relationship with God organic….I don’t know, that’s me.
  • And when people bring those Bibles to church and look up passages as they are mentioned in the sermon to add notes (or doodles) in the Bible, we all get to hear that great sound of Bible pages turned together when lots of people are reading the Bible all at once. We miss that when you read on a cellphone……

No one is making a similar case for eBooks. They now seem destined to exist on the periphery of the market.


Sunday Update: Problems at Ingram International

Store owners who happen to be checking email on Sunday will notice that the new invoice notification system at Ingram Book Company — something called ViewDirect Production — has been very busy over the past few hours, spitting out multiple emails with .pdf attachments for orders recently invoiced.

The good news is that if you open these and compare the invoice numbers they are all multiple copies of the same invoice(s). You’re not getting multiple shipments. At least we hope not.

We tried contacting the company, but have misplaced the secret number that reaches the few data people who work on Sundays to support iPage customers.

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Heartsong Presents to Close

After being sold by Barbour to Harlequin, itself now owned by HarperCollins, the budget-priced fiction imprint Heartsong Presents is winding down.  The company produced 52 pocket-sized novels annually, and facilitated production through a company owned in part by author Tracie Peterson.

Author agent Steve Laube posted the news earlier today (11/13). Some readers commented that they were not surprised at the news, given the similarity between the imprint and Harlequin’s Love Inspired line.

The imprint was a launching pad for new authors, a favorite of price-conscious customers, and echoes back to the days when Barbour was exclusively a publisher of promotional price product.

Last week HarperCollins announced the closure of its Canadian warehouse, but indicated that Harlequin would continue to serve trade accounts from a Buffalo, New York warehouse, established when the company was a unit of TorStar Corporation, publisher of The Toronto Star.  That move indicates that the Love Inspired line will not be integrated into HarperCollins Christian Publications (HCCP) or available to trade bookstores to ship with other Harper product.

The Problem With Reading eBooks

Christian author and humorist Jon Acuff probably has a few eBooks of his own in the market, but that doesn’t stopping from biting the proverbial hand that feeds his family of four. For him, the issue isn’t eye strain or type size or fear of accidentally sitting on the tablet while wearing spiked jeans, it’s the device itself:

Jon Acuff 4…I can’t read books on a Kindle or an iPad.

Notice I didn’t say “Don’t like to” or “Don’t want to,” I said, “can’t.”

I physically can’t do it because there are too many exits.

If I have access to the Internet, there’s not a book on the planet that has a shot of getting my undivided attention. If I have access to the Plants vs. Zombies game app I’ll drop a book in a heart beat. If I have the chance to shop for other books that the book I am currently reading referenced, forget it, I’m gone.

I know I can turn off the wifi for an iPad or a Kindle. I can do lots of little tricks that essentially make it as escape proof as a book. But it’s still not enough. There are too many distractions for me to go digital with reading…

Read the full article at his blog.

  • Related — Yesterday Christian Retailing reported that has ceased selling eBooks. Spokesperson Sally Ross is quoted, “We’ve seen consumer demand shift to physical books ordered on to ‘pick-up in-store…”  Click here to read the full story.
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Prominent Christian Author Killed in Plane Crash

Posted Sunday night at The [Grand Bahama] Tribune

Myles MunroeTHE leader of Bahamas Faith Ministries, Dr Myles Munroe, and his wife Ruth have been killed in a plane crash in Grand Bahama.

The crash took place this afternoon and killed all nine people on board the private jet. The plane reportedly struck a crane at the Grand Bahama Ship Yard, exploding on impact and crashing into the ground near a junkyard area.

The Department of Civil Aviation reported that the plane was a Lear 36 executive jet which departed the Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA) for the Grand Bahama International Airport.

The plane left LPIA at 4.07pm with nine people on board and crashed while making an approach for landing at Grand Bahama International Airport at 5.10pm, the Department of Civil Aviation said.

A police on source on the island previously said two were feared dead. However, police sources later confirmed that all those on board had been killed…

Continue reading at The Tribune

Among the books published by him are:

  • Myles Munroe on Relationship
  • Pass it On
  • Kingdom Principles: Preparing for Kingdom Experience and Expansion
  • Rediscovering the Kingdom
  • The Most Important Person on Earth
  • Understanding Your Potential
  • Waiting and Dating
  • The Spirit of Leadership
  • The Principles and Power of Vision
  • Understanding the Purpose and Power of Prayer
  • Understanding the Purpose and Power of Woman
  • Understanding the Purpose and Power of Men
  • God’s Big Idea
  • Overcoming The Crisis
  • Principles and Benefits of Change
  • Releasing Your Potential


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Thinking Differently About Translations

This is part three of three consumer articles that appeared on Thinking Out Loud last week…


Cartoonist Wes Molebash at The Junia Project website (Sept 2013) (Click image for Wes’ site, Insert Image.)

bible wars



As we mentioned in part two, usually the first question you ask someone considering a Bible purchase involves trying to qualify which translation they might be interested in. The best way to ask this is, Who is it for? In other words, you want to be told as much as possible about the end user. Young or old? First time Bible reader? Other translations they own? Type of church they attend? Is English their first language?

Much has already been written online about the two broader approaches to translation: Dynamic equivalence and formal correspondence. Lately, some clever marketers have blurred those lines with some new terminology designed to capture interest from those on both sides of the discussion.

While one approach is often termed word for word and the other is thought for thought, really the question is this: To what extent do you retain some of the original forms, and to what extent can you break out of those forms and express the same concept the way we speak today? The challenge is that some of those original forms contain allusions to other Bible passages and you don’t want to rob the Bible of its beauty and symmetry. On the other hand, you don’t want to have to reduce explanations to footnotes, so sometimes just saying things in contemporary language is best. (But then you often find yourself including the historic or literary tie-ins in footnotes instead.)

So today, rather than look at translations in those terms, I’d like to think of them in clusters.

Traditional – Really, with more than 400 years of history, the KJV is in a class by itself here. The person you’re buying one for would have to really be expecting it, or in a church situation where nothing else is permissible.

Formal – With similar syntax and a name association, the New King James Version (NKJV) would fit this category and is still popular in some circles. But so also would the New American Standard Version (NASB), a rigid but accurate translation that is a favorite among Evangelical seminaries and Bible colleges. (See also this article.)

Popular – The New International Version (NIV) is still considered the best-selling English translation and with an update in 2011, isn’t going away any time soon. For Mainline Protestants and some Roman Catholics, the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) is the translation of choice.

Contemporary – Aimed at the same market that reads the NRSV, the new Common English Bible (CEB) is gaining popularity. Gaining on the NIV is the New Living Translation (NLT), especially among younger Christians. Despite its age, Today’s English Version (TEV, also called Good News Bible or GNT) is still preferred by some readers.

Creative – When The Message was first published with its use of idiomatic language and stripping away of verse numbers, it attracted a lot of attention. Today, The Voice Bible is the choice for those who want something edgy, with everything presented in a dramatic (play script) format. Of course, for those who want to color outside the lines, The Amplified Bible (AMP) has been around for several decades now with its alternative words in brackets. A recent copycat translation, The Expanded Bible offers similar options.

Evangelical Denominations – You’ll find many Baptists gravitating toward the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) and Reformers and Calvinists choosing the English Standard Version (ESV). The translation philosophy for both is somewhat similar to NASB, with a reluctance to make any risky changes to the text as many learned it in the KJV.

Catholic – The New American Bible (NAB, not to be confused with NASB) is the one most identified with the Catholic Church, but you’ll also find interest in the Catholic editions of the Good News Translation (GNT or TEV), the NRSV, and The Jerusalem Bible.

Easy to Read – The New Century Version (NCV) uses a very basic vocabulary but without seeming childish. The New International Readers Version (NIrV) uses a more choppy sentence structure, but is well-suited to people for whom English is a second language.

Children – The two Bibles in this category are actually the same as in the section above. The NCV is marketed as the International Children’s Bible (ICB), while the NIrV is issued as a part of various branded series that lead the kids into reading a regular NIV. Also doing well in Children’s editions is a more obscure translation known as God’s Word (GW).

Worth NotingThe Story is a Bible story book for adults showing the larger story arc of the Bible in a single narrative. The Kingdom New Testament is a NT written by popular Bible scholar N.T. Wright. And speaking of NT editions, people still seek out The New Testament in Modern English by J.B. Phillips.

Unfortunately, in many respects this article is not as useful as yesterday’s piece about features, as if some of these are of interest, you’ll have to investigate them elsewhere. Passage comparison at sites like BibleGateway, BibleHub and Blue Letter Bible are a good place to begin. Hopefully this has at least helped you narrow down your search. Bible translation selection is both a science and an art, and many people have a lot of emotional investment in particular Bible versions. In many respects, perhaps it is better that we put the features explanations first, as you might want to simply select the features you want, and then explore which translations offer those particular editions.

For further reading:

Introducing Customers to the World of Bible Options

On my personal blog last weekend I posted a series of consumer articles on choosing a Bible. I decided to leave the question of translation until the third part, and when you think of it, many requests for Bibles these days are more feature driven than translation driven (just as many people seeking a church home are more style driven than denomination driven). This part, part two was the most difficult to write (and keep short) and also the most fun. I offer it to you here for your consideration; you can also get new staff members to read this. Later on, I cross-posted the series to our store website.


In Part One we looked at the Bible as one of the most significant gifts you can give someone, and why it’s important to get the selection right. Today we want to help simplify the process of choosing features they might appreciate and use. Normally we might ask the translation question first, but we thought we’d do things differently just this one time.

NIV Compact Giant Print 9780310435303Well over 95% of the Bibles sold today are complete editions consisting of the 66 books in the Protestant canon of the Old and New Testaments (or if you prefer First and Second Testaments, or Former and Current Testaments) or the 66 plus a varying number of additional books used in the Orthodox or Roman Catholic churches called the Apocrypha or Deuterocanonical books. In other words, if you’re looking for a New Testament only, beyond a handful of presentation Bibles for babies and children you’ll find a limited selection, and if you’re looking for an Old Testament only, well, good luck.

By the way, not every Bible containing these extra books is a Catholic Bible because in order to be considered one, it would need a sort of kosher seal on the copyright page known as an imprimatur. You can also purchase those books separately — the original KJV contained them — unlike the case with trying to buy an Old Testament by itself.

You will find many Gospels of John however. This is rather strange because John is an argument for the divinity of Christ, but increasingly, that type of persuasion doesn’t work with postmoderns. You would expect more of the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) to be produced now, but alas, we’re getting quite off-topic!

A Bible without any additional features is called a text Bible, and if there are some cross-references listing recommended related verses either in a center-column, at the bottom, or at the end of verses, then it’s a text reference or reference Bible. Free of bells and whistles, these are usually the best-priced and most popular. You can save even more by buying into the volume print runs of pew Bibles, now sometimes called church Bibles. These hardcover editions are quite durable. However, my advice would be to avoid what are called gift-and-award Bibles, because by using cheaper (and therefore thicker) paper, they are forced to use a very, very small type font. Generally, an award Bible is something churches give out to kids or visitors they’re not sure they’re ever going to see again. If they know the child, usually they go for something nicer.

Some of the most popular text Bibles often use the trade-style Thinline or Slimline. Introduced originally with more of the women’s market in mind, their style is also useful for pastors on hospital visits, youth workers at a campfire, and anyone else who doesn’t want to carry around a larger book. Also available are compact Bibles, but here you need to watch the print size, though Zondervan has a rather awesome NIV Compact Giant Print Bible that is a must-see if you’re shopping.

This is probably a good place to pause and mention print size. What Thomas Nelson calls Giant Print on their NKJV editions is really everybody else’s Large Print. This is another instance where you are better off buying in person rather than online. Also, just because a Bible advertises that it used 13-point type, that doesn’t tell you what the leading (spacing between lines of type) is, you need to see that for yourself. And if someone is looking for larger print, you should avoid comparing poetic and prophetic sections (which often use much more white space) to narrative sections which are more normally paragraphed.

Red-letter Bibles are by far the most common, but this is not an exact science. Did Jesus say the verse we know as John 3:16 or was that John’s commentary? Some people are divided on this issue. Does it mean those verses are more important? Isn’t all scripture inspired? Also appearing more frequently — perhaps sparked by The Message Bible — are editions stripped of verse numbers.

Bindings vary in quality and cost along a spectrum beginning with paperback, then hardcover, then vinyl, then imitation leather, then bonded leather, and then fine or genuine leathers (including Moroccan, calfskin, etc.) Technically, many of the two-tone or duo-tone Bibles popular now are only imitation leather, but the quality and artistry of those covers has advanced to where you might pay more for those than some bonded leathers.

Bibles which have been thumb indexed may be produced by the publisher and have a separate ISBN (i.e. stock number) or may be done by a bookstore or distributor as an after-market add-on. (Remember when Sears Automotive sold after-market air-conditioning for cars?) You can also decide later to add Bible tabs but this is a process akin to watch repair or untangling coat hangers and is best done by the very patient (i.e. wives, mothers and girlfriends.) While you’re buying your tabs, you might as well go nuts and buy some extra ribbon markers.

Complete Parallel New TestamentParallel Bibles are text editions containing more than one edition, usually side-by-side on the page. Full Bibles are usually 2-translation or 4-translation, but Hendrickson has a nice 8-translation New Testament in hardcover which I really like, but don’t own. (Yet. I’ll send them a copy of this!) There are some very interesting combinations available that blend different translation styles (see part three of this article). There are also a specialized form of parallels called interlinear which weave the original Greek and Hebrew language texts (and often other features) on the same lines as the English translation used as a base.

Devotional Bibles are really two books in one. They contain a year’s worth of devotionals usually for a target audience such as men, women, people in a recovery program, teens, etc. You can expect at least 310 devos (often the weekend reading is combined) or 366, but you’ll pay less than if you bought the two items individually.

Study Bibles contain supplementary notes. Sometimes the same notes are made available in a variety of translations; so the Life Application Bible has NIV, NLT, NKJV editions. I sometimes tell people that the NIV Study Bible takes us back into Bible times where as the Life Application brings the Bible into our times. That’s a bit simplistic, but helps you see there are different approaches to what type of things get annotated, not to mention different uses of charts, diagrams, the inclusion of longer articles, and even what gets defined as a study edition to begin with. As with devotional editions, there are now a wide variety of study editions produced just for kids and teens.

Certain study Bibles are also tied into the teaching ministry of different pastors, TV preachers, authors and ministries. Sometimes these are sold in bookstores and sometimes they are only available through the ministry organization concerned. Presumably, the notes are derived from the individual’s other notes or study guides, but sometimes it just means that the person named on the cover merely vetted the creation of a special study edition. You never know for sure.

I am not a huge fan of the One Year Bible genre (a Tyndale Publishing trademark, if I’m not mistaken) as they can’t be taken to church or small group given the re-ordering of the material. The same is also true of chronological Bibles which often harmonize concurrent passages such as Kings and Chronicles or the gospels; you wouldn’t want these to be someone’s first (or second) Bible. As Yoda might say, ‘Mixed all everything up is.’ On the other hand, Tyndale keeps producing these at an alarming rate so maybe they know something I don’t. I think their appeal tends to be regional, and I don’t live in that region.

Confused? I hope this is more helpful than bewildering. Even as you read this, executives are sitting in board rooms dreaming up new Bible editions for 2015. There are no limits to the imagination. In The People’s Bible, Zondervan did a turnabout on the red-letter concept, and using data from, they put frequently sought-after verses in larger type, with a total of about six font sizes. With The Voice translation, you get a delightful dramatic reading of the entire Bible.

Speaking of drama, Bibles on CD usually come in dramatized readings (sometimes complete with a celebrity cast of readers, not to mention sound effects and often a musical score) and straight narrative readings. We end this discussion where we began, because while you can get New Testament-only audio Bibles, you’ll find getting an Old Testament fairly impossible; so make that initial purchase carefully.

Part Three: Navigating the various translations.