Archive for August, 2015

No Matter How Many I Bought, It Wouldn’t Have Been Enough

Today was a rather frustrating day as we were forced to live within the new realities of the Send the Light freight discount program. As part of their “Thrifty Thursday” program they were offering 75% discount on boxed cards. These cards were only $5.99 US to begin with, making this a great deal.

But then we realized, we didn’t have a single book in our shopping cart, and books and Bibles are now the engine that drive the free freight program. You’ve got to have 20 of them to qualify. So even if I had bought 100 boxes, I would have paid enormous freight costs.

Yesterday, we unpacked a box from them that contained two boxes of cards. “I thought you weren’t ever going to buy boxed cards from them again;” my employee reminded me. She was right, I had said that, but these two boxes actually arrived in okay condition. At least they weren’t on the bottom of the box with books on top.

So what if the entire shipment was boxed cards? Do you think they would survive the international shipping experience?? We just find that some customers are more than happy to try something other than Dayspring, which I realize dominates the boxed card selection of most of the store staff reading this.

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Celebrating 20 Years of WOW The Hits

Wow Hits 2016Christian bookstore shoppers have made this item a staple for two decades now, and in many of them, it is the top selling CD of the year overall. The WOW CDs were patterned after the NOW CDs which were sold in the general market. The idea behind the compilations was to present the best available songs, but without the label restrictions usually associated with CD samplers. To accomplish this, The WOW Partnership was created involving the major Christian record companies. Additionally, bonus cuts allowed the participating companies to introduce newer artists.

The CD series has its own page on Wikipedia:

WOW is a series of annual compilation albums featuring contemporary Christian music. The birth of the WOW record project can be traced Grant Cunningham, A&R Director at Sparrow Records. In November of 1994 Grant made a business trip to EMI Limited in London, at the time was the parent company of Sparrow Records where he noticed that several British record labels were issuing an annual CD of top-rated songs, known as the NOW series, containing collections of pop songs. Grant brought the idea back to Sparrow. Sparrow executives suggested a similar project be developed for Christian pop music and Grant was assigned the task of getting the project off the ground. The WOW franchise represents the most successful collections of Christian music ever issued.

Released in late 1995, “WOW 1996” was the first in the WOW series and the first recording put together by the three major Christian record companies of the time: Word Records (now Word Entertainment), Sparrow Records (now part of EMI Christian Music Group), and Reunion Records (now part of Sony’s Provident Label Group). Still today, after each submitting label agrees to a reduced master royalty, the final decision on the tracks to be included is made by committee. Production, marketing, and distribution for the “WOW Hits” series is handled by EMI Christian Music Group.

Wow Worship LimeThe Wikipedia page has two more paragraphs, one of which I added this morning dealing with the huge popularity of the more recent WOW Worship series. That series began in the fall of 1999 and are named by the color of the cover, possibly in a nod to the timelessness of some worship songs. There have also been hymn collections and Christmas collections, and in the U.S. the WOW Gospel series highlights the best of urban and mass gospel choir-inspired music.

With WOW Hits 2016 due to release mid-September, I found it interesting that one writer has already suggested ten songs that didn’t make the cut. (If you’re looking for some tunes to listen to, he has the videos embedded in that post.) Furthermore, just to show what a coveted prize getting on the Wow complications is, Josh Andre also offers twenty songs that he feels should be considered for WOW 2017. Somebody takes this really seriously!

These albums always make a great gift. For the the recipient, they represent an instant commercial-free playlist, especially for people who live on the fringes of Christian radio reception or are completely foreign to the contemporary Christian music genre. The 2-CD sets are now usually made available in both a regular and deluxe edition, the latter containing more bonus cuts, but the standard minimum is usually 30 songs, making this a great bargain.

Happy Birthday to WOW!


Roger Olson Title Fills a Gap in the Market

Would we call Buddhism a heresy? (p. 148)

Counterfeit Christianity - Roger OlsonThere is a striking difference between heresy and heretics, and as the question above illustrates, much depends on where you’re standing when you ask it. Theology and Ethics professor Roger Olson has written a book which occupies a middle ground between the usual academic text and a popular survey of cults and isms. Counterfeit Christianity: The Persistence of Errors in the Church (Abingdon) makes examining the plethora of Christian beliefs and doctrines accessible to the common parishioner, but is in no way light reading.

Olson has written many hardcover textbooks, but with this 176-page paperback seems to go out of his way to make this sideways look at church history more appealing to a broader readership, using some colorful imagery:

The Nicene Creed means that Christians are to believe in a God who is “one what and three whos.” The Chalcedonian Definition, hypostatic union, means that Christians are to believe that Jesus Christ is “one who and two whats.” (p.32)

Got that?

Or in the contrast between the Protestant and Catholics views of doctrinal authority, he quotes Modecai Kaplan:

Tradition always gets a vote, but never a veto. (p.39)

The approach is fresh, and some of it helps explains areas where non-theologians get stuck trying to untangle complex concepts:

In other words, the doctrine of the Trinity can be explained; the Trinity cannot be explained. The doctrine of the Trinity was never intended to be an explanation of God; it was intended to be a model that helps people think about God in a way that does not destroy the mystery of God, is faithful to God’s self-revelation in Christ, and protects God’s triunity from misunderstanding and distorted explanations. (p. 90, italics added)

And again,

Folk religion is to historic religion what astrology is to astronomy… Not all folk religion is totally wrong or heretical, but it’s a fertile seedbed in which heresy can grow and flourish. (p.140)

Organizationally, the book begins with two chapters outlining heresy and orthodoxy, five chapters dealing with what we might consider classic heresies, and three chapters dealing with more recent, unofficial heresies; those not condemned by a particular historic council.

Many chapters offer prescriptions for confronting flawed teaching:

The only way to have it in its full and true reality is to delve deeply into the Bible and Christian history by studying the whole Bible, not just passages that support our values and desires, and all the great voices of the Christian past – especially those who suffered for swimming against the stream of their cultures.

[There is] a need for American Christians to receive missionaries from Christian movements in the Global South where Christianity is thriving and, by all account, God’s involvement in day-to-day life is evident. (p.152)

Overall, I feel this title is something needed in the religion/apologetics/church history book market at this time. Again, this is not a textbook — though it could certainly serve as an undergraduate text — but has great potential for the average churchgoer who wants to go deeper into an understanding of false doctrine in the Christian era.

Thanks to Augsburg-Fortress Canada for an opportunity to review this title.

NIV Zondervan Study Bible: The Rolls-Royce of the Study Genre

August 25, 2015 1 comment

It’s one thing to write an article about an upcoming Bible based on media releases — which appears in part at the end of this one — it’s another thing entirely to hold one in your hands. Such was the case last week when a beautiful bonded leather edition of the new NIV Zondervan Study Bible was delivered.  This is one of those occasions where I’m not just a bookstore owner, I’m also a giddy, excited customer with a new Bible!

NIV Zondervan Study Bible open

Opening the pages, it occurred to me that in another era, this was the type of product that a family would order by mail, wait weeks for, and upon its arrival the family would gather around the dining room table to check out the different features and ooh and aah.

This is very much an encyclopedic Bible taking the existing NIV Study Bible — which will continue to remain in print — and combining it with ideas such as the supplementary articles seen in the ESV Study Bible and the use of charts seen in the Life Application Study Bible, and the use of full color, in-text pictures first used in the NIV Archaeological Study Bible.

As you would expect, there are thorough introductions for each book, but also to each section of Biblical literature. However, the bulk of the supplementary articles are placed at the back, and these are topical but also tied to elements of systematic theology, though I’ve noticed the publisher prefers the term Biblical theology. There are many maps at the back; I also noted a full-page map embedded in the middle as well. A variety of scholars contributed to the project which was headed by D. A. Carson. The print version also includes a free digital download.

At 2880 pages this is a Bible packed with features. As such, I wish the font chosen for the notes was a little clearer, but I might upgrade to the large print edition. This may not be a take-to-church Bible edition, but it offers some great helps for both the new Christian who wants background information, and the veteran Christ follower.

I don’t usually repeat the same article just a month later, but below is most of the original article posted here in anticipation of this significant Bible release…

NIV Zondervan Study Bible

Opinions here are those of the author; this is not a sponsored post.

While the title may confuse some, you have to assume the publishers already sorted out that potential confusion and went ahead with the name anyway. The NIV Zondervan Study Bible is releasing later this summer, and is certain to get mixed up with the classic NIV Study Bible which has been with us for several decades. The latter isn’t going anywhere.

At a major online Christian retail site, we read:

The NIV Study Bible will remain in print. With over 10 million copies sold over 30 years, this bestselling study Bible will continue to help readers come to a deeper understanding of God’s Word.

And then it offers this chart which outlines the differences:

NIV Study Bibles compared

Looking closely at the author list above, methinks that that Zondervan is going after the same market as purchased the popular ESV Study Bible. Clearly, to some extent, the Reformed community is in view. However, by virtue of its weight, the ESV product attracted a broader audience containing features which had not heretofore seen in study Bibles. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but the ESV Study did contain elements worth emulating.

Zondervan is quick to point out that this new project was not adapted from the present study edition, but was “built from the ground up.”

Bonus: For those of you who’ve read this far, here’s a look at some of the extras in this Bible below which is a clue to where the advance peek treasure is buried:

NIV Zondervan Study Bible ArticlesClick the image above, and then click the “preview” tab to see the full table of contents and many of the introductory articles.

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It’s Our 7th Birthday at Christian Book Shop Talk

August 24, 2015 1 comment

It was seven years ago today that I wrote:

Do you ever feel like an odd duck when you go to church? You’re in ministry, but not in the sense that pastors, counselors and missionaries are. You’re working hard for little return, but some people think you’re making big bucks off the gospel. You’re kind of interested in getting to know the guy at church who manages the Home Depot and the woman who has a chain of clothing stores, but you’re experience of retail is just so different from theirs. You’re an expert on different strains of theology, can use a concordance or Bible dictionary with your eyes closed, and have experience dealing with people from umpteen different denominations, but nobody ever thinks of you as the go-to person when they have some deep questions. You have a four-drawer filing cabinet filled with glossy catalogs, but you’re rarely asked to recommend a specific resource for a specific church project...

…In Canada, changes to our industry are coming fast and furious and it’s really hard to keep up. It’s also hard to find someone to talk to who really knows and really understands the unique features of our commercial ministries.

So by putting this blog up, and leaving the comments section open, I’m hoping that those who want to talk can talk, and those who want to rant can rant, and those who have questions can ask them.

This is intended as a forum for CANADIAN Christian Bookstore OWNERS and STAFF, but if you’re reading this from the USA or the UK, or you’re just a big huge fan of Christian books; feel free to chime in, but identify yourself as such. Stores which want to can SIGN their comments, or you can just use your username, or you can create something anonymous. Feel free to come back to the discussion often; and feel free to post comments to various discussions at the same time.

…but it didn’t take long before the blog started serving another purpose, as a news conduit. The first day we had four posts, and the last announced both the closing of CMC Distribution and the end of print editions for CCM Magazine. Just three weeks later, it was our sad duty to report the shuttering of both the retail and wholesale divisions of R. G. Mitchell.

I recently tweeted this:

Bad news clomps around in construction boots;
Good news tiptoes in sock feet.
~ Adapted from a Welsh proverb

Sometimes the bad news seems to dominate my writing. There have been changes, store closings, and the roller coaster ride that is the Canadian-American currency exchange rate. But we’ve also celebrated some great people, great products and great ideas. I have no regrets about starting this little project 7 years ago.

7 is the perfect numberOur readers are presently three-quarters Canadian and one-quarter American (which is according to plan) but we also have enjoyed having readers in the UK, Australia, India, South Africa, Germany, New Zealand, The Philippines and France. For all time, popular stories include the closing of Salem Storehouse in Ottawa, the controversy over The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven, and other posts on store closing and (in Windsor) a reopening. I especially love it when other media picks up the thread of items that originated here.

Christian Book Shop Talk also shares stories with my other two dominant blogs, Thinking Out Loud and Christianity 201, where I often post excerpts of books reviewed here and at Thinking O. L.

We don’t ask for donations here, and are not part of any affiliate programs. Occasionally, people we’ve met through the blog purchase remainder boxes from Searchlight, which helps make this possible. I am especially grateful for the excellent book review relationship we have with Thomas Nelson, Zondervan, and Baker Books, but if I had it to over again, I might have insisted on more books from IVP where, a lifetime ago, I once worked.

Although my purpose here is not to help self-published authors, the blog has led to a number of interactions, some of which have helped writers get contracts, or get better contracts.

Over the last few years, I have become a bit of a recluse when it comes to attending industry events. I realize I now write as a bit of industry outsider, not an insider, but I am very thankful that my one remaining store continues to operate and I hope the insights I can offer from the way we do things a bit differently there are helpful to store owners, managers and front-line staff. With the news-gathering capabilities of Thinking Out Loud — even though it no longer has the connection to Christianity Today — I hope we can find information that you read here first.

Thanks to all of you who tell me you read this on a regular basis, and especially those who leave comments. 

Happy Birthday to us!

~Paul Wilkinson.

Birthday Party from Joy of Tech dot com




Announcement Re. Gospel Light

This is the full text of an announcement Canadian stores received earlier today from David C. Cook, the Canadian distributor for Gospel Light:

As many of you may have heard, on Aug. 7th, 2015, Gospel Light voluntarily filed for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. The company will continue operations and product sales throughout the process as a “debtor-in-possession,” with a 120-day cash collateral plan to pay for employee wages and product delivery to trade and direct customers. Fall Curriculum will ship without any anticipated interruptions and Gospel Light will likely fulfill all winter curriculum orders as well. Gospel Light will conduct an auction of its Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, and Ministry Resource businesses, as well as seek Court approval to sell its ZDL shares to Pacific Resources International.
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Toronto’s Faith Bookstore to Reopen Under New Ownership

Faith CultureThe reopening of Faith Family Books in Scarborough is probably one of the most anticipated bookstore rebirths ever, provided of course that you’re aware of it, which many if not most of the people we’ve spoken to in Toronto are not.

With a new management team, a non-profit structure and an usual twist on the existing trade brand, Faith Culture is due to open later this month at the same location, though using only half of the space previously occupied.

Pre-opening, the name is probably the most striking feature. The Facebook page is named “Faith Culture Toronto’s Christian Store and Event Centre;” a nod to the previous store’s desire to make the location a destination for northeast Toronto’s Christian community, which is being emphasized again in the new store. A slideshow shows the fixtures, some of which are being sold because of the smaller size of the new store.

The mechanics of the Not For Profit structure aren’t entirely clear, since new investment was needed to reconfigure the space and hire staff. This time around, according to reports, some people at the store will be working as volunteers. (The staffing model of the Bibles For Missions stores comes to mind here as a model mixing paid management with work on the sales floor done by people donating their time.) There will also be a few familiar faces from the stores previous incarnation.

A new website, announces the forthcoming store but still has no details.

The previous store, which opened in Spring, 2009 in the wake of the closing of R. G. Mitchell the previous year, closed at the end of March of this year, as we reported here. While the store faced the challenges the whole industry is facing now, Faith’s situation got more difficult after co-owner Larry Willard was in a serious accident in February, 2014 and was no longer able to be a hands-on presence in the store. Larry was also active in MissionFest Toronto, which did not convene in 2015 for the first time since its founding.


Family Christian Stores Stay Open, But Gospel Light Files for Bankruptcy

From Christianity Today:

The nation’s largest Christian retail chain will remain open after a bankruptcy judge approved the sale of the troubled company today.

After six months of wrangling in bankruptcy court, Grand Rapids-based Family Christian Stores will be sold debt-free to FCS Acquisitions for between $52.4 and $55.7 million, according to MLive.

The move will cost creditors millions of dollars but will keep more than 200 bookstores open as venues for publishers and vendors to sell products in the future.

The plan was approved by Judge John Gregg Tuesday morning…

Family Christian—which will be renamed FCO, LLC—was able to shed more than $127 million in debt.

On Friday, Family Christian Stores’ creditors, many of them Christian publishers and vendors, voted 162 to 7 in favor of the sale. According to court records, Family Christian owed about $108 million to the creditors who approved of the sale. It owed about $97,000 to the creditors who opposed the sale.

The sale will preserve Family Christian’s business for now…

But there are casualties:

“For the short term they will be healthy. And if they can adapt to the retail challenges ahead they may be successful,” Christian literary agent Steve Laube told CT in an email. “Unfortunately, their financial ‘health’ came at the expense of a number of publishers, suppliers, and authors.”

Because of the sale, Family Christian’s suppliers will have to cope with being paid cents on the dollar for products they had shipped to the retailer.

Gospel Light Publishing, which sells Sunday school and Vacation Bible School curriculum through Family Christian, filed for bankruptcy last Friday, the same day that creditors voted overwhelmingly to keep Family Christian in business.

“It was a contributing factor in our need to seek court protection,” Gospel Light CEO Dave Thornton told CT. “We had to write off $143,000 in expected income, and we’re a smaller, family-owned Christian publishing company that didn’t have deep enough pockets to sustain that, combined with other unexpected losses this spring.”

continue reading at Christianity Today


In Family Christian’s backyard, Kregel Publishing is taking a big hit. MLive (Michigan Live) reports:

Jerry Kregel, executive vice president and chief financial officers of Grand Rapids-based Kregel Publishing, said the bankruptcy will cost his Christian publishing company about $400,000.

As one of Family Christian Stores’ consignment vendors, Kregel’s family- owned company will get 35 percent of the wholesale value of their products as a result of the sale, he said.

Despite their losses, Kregel said they voted for the sale in hopes of keeping Family Christian Stores open despite the challenges “brick and mortar” stores are facing from online and digital competitors in the publishing industry.

Christian book and gift stores continue to face challenges, said Kregel, who company also operates a retail store in Grandville and recently closed a store in Plainfield Township.

“In an industry that has been challenged in recent years, this squeezes things even more,” he said.

continue reading at MLive



Searchlight Makes Christian Book Shop Talk Possible

Some of you know my own little store, Searchlight in Cobourg is approaching 20 years in a very small, very price-conscious market. Part of our survival is owed to a very careful buying of bargain books, based on years of experience.

We also wholesale bargain books out to other stores. We haven’t been as aggressively promoting this lately, but many stores in Ontario — where it’s easier to deal at arms length — have taken advantage of this opportunity; either selecting from our inventory or allowing us to put a sample pack together for them. In the past, medium and smaller market stores have found this most advantageous, with some taking 4-6 cartons at a time. We especially enjoy working with stores getting into bargain books for the first time; you do need to be cautious, not every great deal is what it seems.

Today is just a reminder that my staff can’t do wholesale orders; so if you’re planning to drop in, you need to know that I’ll be there; and I don’t work every day at the store. (I like to delude myself into thinking that my primary occupation is that of writer/journalist.) Call ahead, or better yet, make contact by email.  Also, we can sell you copies of David Wesley’s worship album on a store order as few as eight copies. With a huge YouTube following and a cross-demographic acapella sound, you’re sure to do well with these.

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Family Christian: Even Though It Means Big Loses, Vendors Want the Chain to Stay Alive

This appeared yesterday at the website MLive (Michigan Live). Click the link at the end to continue reading.

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – A lawyer for Family Christian Stores says creditors who stand to lose the most are voting overwhelmingly in favor of a bankruptcy sale that would keep the nation’s largest chain of Christian book and gift stores operating.

Voting by creditors on Family Christian’s Chapter 11 sale is scheduled to conclude on Friday, Aug. 7.

If creditors vote in favor of the plan, Family Christian’s lawyers will ask U.S. Bankruptcy Judge John Gregg to approve it at a hearing next Tuesday, Aug. 11.

The plan before creditors would sell the company to Family Christian Acquisitions, a related entity that has offered to pay between $52.4 million and $55.7 million for the company’s assets and inventory without assuming its debt.

With 266 stores in 36 states, the Grand Rapids-based chain filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection from creditors in February. With 3,100 full-time and part-time employees, the company claimed assets and inventory of nearly $75 million and debts of more than $127 million.

Though creditors and vendors stand to lose millions by the sale, most were expected to vote in favor instead of liquidating the chain, which serves as a major distribution channel for their books and giftware items.

As of Thursday, Aug. 6, more than 97.6 percent consignment creditors who are owed more than $16 million had voted for the plan, representing 99.9 percent of the amount owed, according to A. Todd Almassian, a lawyer for Family Christian Stores.

Unsecured creditors who are owed $12.8 million also were voting overwhelming in favor of the plan, Almassian said. Of the unsecured creditors voting, he said 93.75 percent voted to accept the plan.

“As debtor’s attorneys, we’re always pleased to see the unsecured creditors’ support,” Almassian said. “Those are the constituents who are arguably most impacted by a bankruptcy.”

Eight classes of creditors must approve the plan by 51 percent of the votes cast and with 67 percent of the dollars represented by the votes. Almassian said he did not have final tallies for the other voting classes…

continue reading here.

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Focus on Insomnia – Display These Together

Insomnia Books

The first is a gift book releasing this week in hardcover from Thomas Nelson. The Pete Wilson title, What Keeps You Up at Night has been out a few weeks now and is also Nelson. The Norman Wright is also fairly new; a small booklet from Rose Publishing (Cook in Canada). The Don Colbert title released in April from Charisma House.  In September, Waterbrook is releasing God Gave Us Sleep, in the children’s series from Lisa Tawn Bergren, which you could display along with Michael Card’s CD Sleep Sound in Jesus

Sweet dreams!

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Send the Light Distribution Changes to Canadian Terms of Sale

Send the Light Canadian StoresTwo Three* changes go into effect today for Canadian stores dealing with Send the Light Distribution (STL).

The first has to do with the 20-unit minimum. As of today, that changes to 20 units of books and Bibles. You’ll need to manually subtract any giftware product, church supply item, CD, DVD, Bible cover, jewelry item, toy, apparel item, etc. before sending your order to make sure it qualifies. (Some homeschool products, hymnbooks or guided journals might be ambiguous so better to be safe than having to appeal your invoice.)

The second has to do with hardcover books.  As of this morning they are now short-discounted to 38% (with Hachette Book Group currently showing at 35%; especially challenging given the 10% markup on the preprinted Canadian price.) 

*UPDATE, Tuesday 7:00 PM — The third change is the implementation of a 1.5% service charge for stores paying by credit card. Since many Canadian stores appreciate the convenience of settling their accounts this way, rather than with a bank draft, this will probably affect more than a few of us. No other suppliers have such a charge, and Foundation Distributing offers a 2% discount for stores on its auto credit program, so they never have to worry about stores being in default.

Mark Phillips noted three reasons for the changes:

  • lower discounts to distributors from some vendors, specifically noting the Harper Group (Zondervan, Nelson, HarperOne, etc.)
  • introduction of dimensional pricing (box size factored into weight) from freight companies January 1
  • an unprecedented number of store closings and bankruptcies

U.S. stores face a dollar value minimum instead ($150 net) but is now worded to read “of books and Bibles” also.

* This post has been updated as noted. The fact that the third item was never communicated to our store shows the various ways in which some stores have received bits and pieces of information about the changes, while others had to hear about it from other stores, or even write and ask. We’ll discuss that later in another post.


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