Archive for December, 2014

LifeWay Under Fire … Again

LifeWay’s retail operations are under attack again.

Here’s the backstory on how it all started:

A denominational worker’s tweet over the holidays sparked a social media campaign alleging the Southern Baptist Convention’s bookstore chain values profit more than doctrinal fidelity and that an inner circle of “evangelical intelligentsia” calling the shots doesn’t listen to the rank-and-file.

Before Christmas Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research, posted a tweet characterizing people concerned about an apparently collegial reference to Pope Francis by author John Piper as “the same 15 Calvinists who are mad at everyone — for everything.”

Stetzer’s comment inspired #the15, a growing number of people using a highway marker with the number 15 as their Twitter profile picture to show anger against a denominational elite they say maintains power by ridicule, marginalization and attacks on anyone who questions its authority…

Continue reading at Baptist World Global

Some of the arguments against LifeWay’s hypocrisy are dead on, even if that means I’m siding here with Calvinists I might otherwise not cozy up to.  We’ve covered that in various posts over the years here at Christian Book Shop Talk and at Thinking Out Loud, such as:

I’ve somewhat given up hope that things will ever change at the big house the Southern Baptist Convention built at One LifeWay Plaza in Nashville. Their days of greatest influence are over anyway.

But you can read the most recent dust-up at the respected blog, Pulpit and Pen.

You can also follow-up in real time on Twitter with the hashtag #the15.

So glad we don’t have LifeWay stores in Canada. And that I don’t carry any LifeWay materials in my store. And very few B&H titles. And am now discontinuing all my Beth Moore as they sell through.


Tangentially: When everybody’s done criticizing The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson, please read — and actually read the book itself — his new title The Grave Robber and tell me if you can find anything off base doctrinally in it.

Another sidebar to this: The Baptist World Global article notes that “[J.D.] Hall called on churches to issue a statement that they will no longer purchase material from LifeWay…” Calvinists have been forsaking mainstream Christian retail for a decade now and buying through their own channels, such as Westminster and Monergism. It’s a rather meaningless threat.

Wow! Still can’t believe I’m siding with the Calvinists on this one. I guess hypocrisy is indeed the greatest sin.

Speaking of which: Our staff are still working out our response to the whole Sarah Young / Jesus Calling situation. Starting next week, the books won’t be on visible display.  Here’s an article from earlier this month in case you missed it.


Don’t Write Off Teen Engagement with Print Books



From Nielsen Newswire:

With today’s rapidly evolving technology and ever-present social media changing the way consumers are connecting with the written word, it should come as no surprise that today’s teens are finding and consuming content differently from previous generations. But while we typically associate these youthful consumers with being early adopters of new technology and digital content platforms, the reading habits of those aged 13-17 are a mix of old and new

Despite teens’ tech-savvy reputation, this group continues to lag behind adults when it comes to reading e-books…

While teens might prefer reading traditional print, their paths to discovery are more dependent on word of mouth—and for today’s connected teens, this often means social media. Young readers are heavily influenced by what their peers are reading and what they’ve read before. Teens, especially teen girls, are more social about their reading compared to older generations, with 45% of teens at least moderately influenced by references to books on social network sites like Facebook and Twitter…

Series especially benefit from the bandwagon effect social media can create. The biggest single source of influence for teen readers is enjoying an author’s previous books. So while authors and publishers have a challenge trying to hook a teen reader in the first time, they’ll likely have an easier time getting them to stick with that author.

Read the whole article at Nielson Newswire

The graphic is from a report on the findings at Business Insider UK.

HT: Tim Underwood



Categories: Uncategorized

Classic Book/Bible Making

A diversion for anyone who happens by here on Christmas Day!

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After Theatrical Reviews, Christian Bookstores May Hesitate with Exodus: God and Kings


Whenever there is a surge of Christian-themed movies at the box office, Christian retailers know that if they wait a few months, there will be a ripple effect in the stores with the video release. Current DVD top sellers in Christian stores — and their online equivalents — include God’s Not Dead and Mom’s Night Out, both of which had theatrical runs first.

I don’t think you’re going to see the same happen with Exodus: Gods and Kings. For the most part, Christian retailers act as gatekeepers for what their constituency reads or listens to or watches, and the Christian media have not entirely received this movie well, though as you’ll see at the bottom of this piece, there are exceptions.

At The Gospel Coalition, Joe Carter writes:

Moses is a central figure in three of the most populous world religions. He’s mentioned more times in the Qur’an than anyone else, and more times in the New Testament than any other Old Testament character. In Judaism he’s not only the central figure, he quite literally wrote the book on the religion. He has, in other words, a lot of name recognition.

…So why does [director Ridley] Scott go out of his way to ruin the story of Moses? The reason can’t be chalked up to “artistic license,” because that would imply some sort of artistry behind the decision. The changes Scott makes, though, are not only art-less, they’re nonsensical and spoil anything of value in his film.

At viewer-rating site, Faith Based Films, one viewer writes:

There is no cloud by day, or pillar of fire by night, or any indication of manna, or the gold, silver and other riches that the Bible teaches were freely given to them by the Egyptians on their departure from Egypt. It leaves those who know the biblical account wondering how the Israelites will ultimately build God’s tabernacle. The film’s depiction of a rag-tag herd of refugees—totally absent the riches they took from Egypt, leaving them with nothing to fulfill their destiny of building the tabernacle and all its instruments of worship.

Significantly, the burning bush scene when Moses first encounters God as a child is set in the context of Moses’ journey up the mountain in a rain storm, which triggers a landslide that sweeps Moses downward and results in his being hit on the head by rocks. He is left submerged in mud except for his face—suggesting that perhaps Moses’ ongoing conversations with God are injury-induced hallucinations or the fantastical imaginings of a schizophrenic. And when Moses is on the mountain receiving the Ten Commandments, it is Moses and not the “finger of God” writing them—without any hint of the blinding glory of God’s presence. In fact God’s portrayal is never that of a sovereign God of magnificent and overwhelming glory. To the contrary, he is depicted as a somewhat dirty young boy who chats with Moses while serving tea.

Speaking of that website, Christian Newswire notes:

Scott’s portrayal of God makes him almost unnecessary in the film to the point that Exodus wouldn’t have suffered much if He had not been in it. Ultimately, the movie misses the central point of the story,” said Chris Stone, Certified Brand Strategist and Founder of Faith Driven Consumer.

The issue is the casting at this article at CNN:

We’ve known since the moment the full cast was announced: nearly every major role in the movie is played by a white actor.

What makes it worse for many observers is that, on the flip side, virtually every black actor in the movie is playing a part called “Egyptian thief” or “assassin” or “royal servant” or “Egyptian lower class civilian.”

…The deeper problem is one of conflating whiteness with heroism and power. Is it so hard to imagine our biblical heroes as being nonwhite? Is it beyond belief that one of the greatest empires in world history had authentically dark skin, rather than being white folks just wearing a ton of makeup?

Finally, in the spirit of the biblical ‘Love Chapter,’ Christianity Today finds some good things to say about it:

The costumes, jewelry, makeup, architecture, embellishments and textures in every shot of Exodus feel as authentic as something you’d see under glass in the British Museum. There are few filmmakers who do world-building better than Ridley Scott (Alien, Gladiator, Prometheus), and on this score Exodus may be his crowning achievement.

Plot deviations and minutiae aside, key themes of the Exodus story are there. Moses is rightly portrayed as a reluctant and rough-around-the-edges leader, though ultimately faithful to his calling. God’s favor upon and covenant faithfulness to the Hebrews is evident, especially in contrast to the ineffectual polytheism of the Egyptians. The presence of God with his people is clear (“God is with us!” shouts Moses on the banks of the Red Sea), even as the “wrestle” between Yahweh and the often-unfaithful Israelites also comes through. “Israel,” after all, literally means “struggle with God.”

Will LifeWay, Family Christian, Parable and Mardel stock the movie when the time comes? That remains to be seen. The film is PG-13 for violence, so some stores may think twice on that basis. But concerns about the film’s accuracy will probably rule the day.

For a complete look at the differences between the Bible and the screenplay for Exodus, check out this article. Note: This article contains many spoilers; if you jump in, be sure to read all four pages.

Are We Heading to a 1.3000 Price Conversion?

“Once upon a time,” I tell my customers, “a $12.99 US book retailed in Canada for $21.50, and people willingly paid the price. That’s a 1.6500 price conversion.”

Not too long ago, we faced a 1.3000 price conversion. I remember it well. It was the one and only time our family ever made it to Florida.

Yesterday, I noticed Book Depot has capitulated to the realities of the Canadian dollar and has added 10% to the Canadian site. Most of our suppliers are using 1.2000 right now, but if you check the Bank of Canada site this morning, you see the rate posted as:

Dollar conversion 121614

and when you add the 2.5% your bank charges, you’re looking at 1.1927; and knowing that the number starts going up faster as the Canadian dollar goes lower, and recognizing that this entire process is supposed to allow some extra headroom or margin as well (taking into account the Canadian contingencies of distribution) then the present situation can’t last long.

Much of our dollar’s drop is believed to be related to the price of oil. Last night, a CBC News speculated whether that price could drop as low as $40/barrel or even as low as $20.

In my store yesterday, I spotted a number of titles that were still at the 1.1000 conversion from the early summer, and changed the price tags. For those of you who scan bar codes, this means your inventory could go up in value with just the flick of a switch.  (But do you want to do this before or after your January 1st inventory count?)

The difference between now and the days of 1.6500 or even 2008 with a 1.3000 conversion, is that today we have a consumer who is much more price aware, and much more capable of finding alternative buying channels.

Still, it’s hard to stay competitive when you are paying a higher price for the inventory, especially if you purchased anything direct from the U.S. with more than 30-day terms, which exactly the situation our suppliers would find themselves in.  If you do have invoices with extra terms from the U.S., I would want to be paying them early, as we did, just in case.


Peterborough Author Back With 12th Release

Judi PeersWe took this title on consignment from the author a few days ago, and half our copies are gone already. Released in Canada and the U.S. through Word Alive Press.

From the Peterborough Examiner:

Peterborough author Judi Peers has focused on two areas in her latest book.

The 57-year-old writer has taken on the church and the issue of women in Playing Second Fiddle: God’s Heart for Harmony Regarding Women and the Church.

The theme is essentially a discussion of God’s purpose for women in the church and calling for the elevation of women in such an environment. Peers shows how both men and women are called to play second fiddle and look to Christ to play the lead in accord with 21st century culture…

Peers has been an author for about 30 years, mainly writing children’s books, and this is her 12th. She began putting it together a couple of years ago and took about six months to complete it, with revisions and re-write still to come. She said some of it has come from personal experience…

…Wildlife artist and author Kelly Dodge created the front cover image with illustrations by Mary Coles.

“The basic message is that all of us, men and women, be engaged to use our gifts and callings equally,’’ she said. “It calls for inclusiveness.’’

Peers is not only an author, but a speaker, publisher and Bible study leader. She is writing Christian material currently, and three of her works are included in the award-winning Canadian anthology A Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider, in the pages of Chicken Soup for the Soul and its Christmas in Canada. She also published Guardian of the Lamp, a Bible study on the understanding of the Old Testament.

Read the full article at The Peterborough Examiner.

Available in the U.S. as well, through Ingram: 9781486607273


Bookstore Employee Scheduled for Release from Chinese Prison

from Mission Network News; click title below to link

Wenxi Li heads home

by Katey Hearth; December 12, 2014

China (VCM) — [EDITOR’S NOTE: The following report was originally shared by The Voice of the Martyrs Canada.]

Former bookstore employee, Wenxi Li, is currently scheduled for release from a Shanxi province prison on December 18th.

Wenxi, who is from Beijing, had travelled to Shanxi province to help local Christians open a new bookstore. Police raided the new business and confiscated hundreds of books. On December 19, 2012, Wenxi was asked to come to the police station in order to retrieve the $6,000 worth of books that had been seized by authorities. Upon his arrival, he was immediately arrested and sent to prison. The bookstore worker was later denied bail and then sentenced to two years in prison on June 17, 2013.

Wenxi’s family is cautiously optimistic that he will be released on schedule. Since being transferred a few months ago to the prison where he’s currently being detained, he has received better overall treatment and was even permitted to make sporadic five-minute calls to members of the family. His wife, Cai Hong Li, reports that he sounds encouraged and is in good health. She is also thankful that while in prison, Wenxi was able to share the Gospel with other inmates and, as a result, several have become Christians.

Though Cai Hong hopes her husband will take some time to rest after his return home, she told VOM staff that he is passionate about the bookstore ministry and will likely want to return to this work as soon as he is released. She then asked for prayer for his forthcoming release and, additionally, for the improvement of her health as Wenxi’s imprisonment has been very difficult on their family.

How encouraging to receive this news of Wenxi’s soon-approaching release from prison! May there be no delay of schedule concerning his release so he can be reunited with his family in time for Christmas–a gift they will most certainly treasure this season. May the transition go smoothly, bringing needed healing and restoration to each member of his family after the ordeal they’ve all experienced.

Let us also pray for Wenxi’s friend and bookstore co-worker, Lacheng Ren, and others who are imprisoned in China for their faith. Ask the Lord to mediate on their behalf as well, while caring for them and their families throughout the legal processes. In the meantime, as in the case of Wenxi, may they have opportunities to lead many to Christ.

Categories: Uncategorized

Hulls Reopens in Winnipeg

From Christian Week:

When Hull’s Family Bookstore shut its doors after 95 years in operation, many Winnipeg and area residents believed the Christian retailer was gone for good.

Hull’s had locations in Winnipeg, Steinbach, Manitoba and Thunder Bay, Ontario. However, in early 2014 both the Winnipeg and Thunder Bay locations were shut down, unable to compete with large retailers and advances in digital technology.

However, Sheila Careless, former office manager of the Winnipeg location, could not let the vision for the Christian bookstore die.

Careless, along with her husband Bruce, purchased the business including its Steinbach location (which had not closed) as well the rights to re-open Hull’s in Winnipeg…

continue reading at Christian Week

Saturday, December 13th marks the beginning of a new era for the Christian community in Winnipeg and a new location: 1317A Portage, halfway between Smith and Donald Streets (not the address showing on the Google-powered store website) okay, it might be halfway between Valour and Spruce, Google Maps and MapQuest disagree violently as to where 1317A is exactly.


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Avoiding a Sales Cat-astrophe

December 11, 2014 1 comment

catOne respondent to an article at the blog Phoenix Preacher which was critical of the substance of today’s top ten best-sellers suggests the approach below might be more successful:

1. I Am a Church Member and a Cat Lover
2. Not a Silent Night (With Cats Fighting beneath my Window)
3. Before Amen, Be Sure to Pray for Your Cat Too
4. Cats are the Agents of the Apocalypse
5. AHA…achoo. Being Allergic to your Four-Footed Friend
6. Jesus Calling all Cats to Salvation
7. The Mystery of the Shemitah Cat
8. Autopsy of a Deceased Cat
9. Jesus Calling All Cats to Salvation (Large Deluxe Edition)
10. The Best Yes is a Cat’s Purr


Categories: Uncategorized

Last 12 Pre-Dec-25 Days Critical

Some ideas that occured to me on the drive home last night:

Going to the Well Once Too Often – There are some things that are selling out that are still worth getting in again, but there are some other titles which you need to say, “They’re sold out.” The trick is in deciding which is which. If it’s core stock that you’d want to have in the new year, while there may be restocking opportunities in January at better discounts, better to have it for the final few days if you think you can move it.  Here in Canada, music restocking is fast and cheap with Red Hot Rush in effect. The opposite problem to going to the well too often is not going to the well enough in the final days.

Some Like it Hot – With colder weather settling in, you want your store warm enough for staff, but not so hot that customers, wearing coats and warm shoes, will stop browsing and want to return to the fresh air. Store temperature matters if you want to keep customers looking.

Cast Your Nets on the Other Side – By now you have a clearer picture of what is moving this year and what isn’t. Take merchandise that people haven’t discovered and swap it out with what’s moving in other parts of the store. (Customers who already bought those things will provide some word-of-mouth advertising for them by now anyway.) Find merchandise from the back and let it spend a day up at the front counter. Take two shelving areas and do a simple left-to-right switch.

Is This Giftable? – We get so caught up in selling “resources” that we sometimes forget this next few days are all about selling gifts. Find things that are worth highlighting to customers and give them prominence, and make staff aware of them.

All Prices Great and Small – Remember that’s it’s not just about significant packages tied up with string for significant people, it’s also about stocking stuffers and gifts for coworkers and casual friends. Feature products that are (a) around $25-30, (b) around $15, and (c) under $5 and don’t forget Sunday School teachers are often looking for class gifts under $1.

Any suggestions from your store you’d like to share?

Categories: Uncategorized

The End of Small Business Marketing on Facebook

facebook-logo-289-75This was posted on November 27th at The Wall Street Journal, but not everyone is aware:

…[S]mall-business owners… will soon get less benefit from the unpaid marketing pitches they post on Facebook. That’s because, as of mid-January, the social network will intensify its efforts to filter out unpaid promotional material in user news feeds that businesses have posted as status updates.

The change will make it more difficult for entrepreneurs… to reach fans of their Facebook pages with marketing posts that aren’t paid advertising.

Businesses that post free marketing pitches or reuse content from existing ads will suffer “a significant decrease in distribution,” Facebook warned in a post earlier this month announcing the coming change…

…More than 80% of small companies using social media to promote their businesses list Facebook as their top marketing tool, followed by LinkedIn and Twitter, according to a recent survey of 2,292 small businesses by Webs, a digital services division of Vistaprint. The top three reasons owners cited for creating a Facebook page were customer acquisition, building a network of followers and increasing brand awareness, according to the survey.

Dan Levy, Facebook’s vice president of small business, says that Facebook’s paid-advertising options have become more effective recently and that companies should view Facebook as a tool to “help them grow their businesses, not a niche social solution to getting more reach or to make a post go viral.”

He says he has “a lot of empathy” for business owners who “are feeling this evolution” in the reduction of what he describes as organic reach. But, he says, organic reach is only one of several reasons companies benefit from having a presence on Facebook. Last month, there were more than one billion visits to Facebook pages directly. “Having a presence where you can be discovered still has a ton of value,” he says…

This is a small part of the entire article, click here to read at WSJ.

Our own store has watched penetration of individual posts drop to less than 20%, and more than half of our posts are community events or links to author/artist information. That doesn’t seem to affect whether anyone gets to see what we post, but we’re determined to keep adding new content daily.

Hey Facebook, it was fun while it lasted; but stores like ours just can’t afford to pay the price.

Crossway VP Authors Spiritual Manifesto For Christian Publishers

Writing on his blog, Strawberry Rhubarb Theology, the senior VP for Bible Publishing at Crossway, Dane Ortland, offered ten reflections for our industry. While the article is probably more conceptual (or theological) than some in retail might have time to digest at this very busy time of year, it is worth reading or perhaps sharing in your store staff devotional time.


  • [W]hat is most needed in Christian publishing is resources that give us that good news, not resources that dance around the periphery
  • Christian publishing appropriately centers on the gospel, but produces resources on everything, from art to technology to physical disability to mathematics to sports. The gospel is the sun of a Christian publisher’s solar system—the blazing center, but also shedding light on all else. For us at Crossway that means publishing the Bible (the book that gives us the gospel in God’s own words) and a host of solid books and other resources grounded in the Bible (books that communicate the gospel in various authors’ words)
  • Christian publishing is doing a very specific thing: communicating heaven-sent truth. It is a truth industry. We are merchants with a ware, and this ware is not cell phones, or silverware, or paper, or contact lenses, or tractors, or vacations, or software, or shoes, but truth… Christian publishers come alongside the local church and flood the believing community, both clergy and laity, with help in understanding truth. Christian publishing exists to take our perplexing, opaque lives and map those lives onto solid truth, making the opaque clear.
  • Christian publishing, to be healthy, requires two things: healthy publishers and healthy authors. What is a healthy publisher? A publisher who functions essentially not out of desire to get rich or make a name for himself, but out of love. Truly Christian publishing is an act of love: serving others with what they need most, as Christ as served us with what we need most. What is a healthy author? An author who functions essentially not out of a desire to get rich or make a name for himself, but out of love.

Click here to read the entire article.