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Archive for July, 2017

When White House News Leads The National

Some days it’s hard to tell if you’re watching a Canadian newscast or have accidentally switched to a U.S. channel. Several times this month, a story pertaining to the White House and the American President have led The National on CBC. I am quite sure they agonize over whether to choose developments there over Canadian or overseas stories, but clearly we can’t get enough of the continuing developments south of the border.

As a bookseller, whenever a product is presented to me that would be considered “U.S.-interest” I instinctively pass. It’s hard to sell a book with the U.S. flag or the Capitol building on the cover, certain Joel Rosenberg fiction titles notwithstanding.

This time it’s different.

I think there might be a considerable interest in these parts for a book releasing by Baker in early October, Choosing Donald Trump: God, Anger, Hope and Why Christian Conservatives Support Him by Stephen Mansfield, who has considerable experience writing the biographies of U.S. Presidents. My reading has been constantly interrupted, but the introduction alone is probably the most succinct summary of Trump’s rise and conquering of the White House I’ve seen in any media, print or electronic.

This is a faith-focused story, not about the faith of the man himself — another book is tackling that topic for a January release — but an understanding of how Trump was able to galvanize support from the Religious Right after eight years of President Obama. In that sense, it’s a summary of how things work in a land where Evangelicalism is inextricably linked to politics.

And in that, there are many parallels and many lessons for us in this country.

I’ll have more to say to about the book when I finish it, but if you’re a Canadian store considering this title, don’t be too dismissive because it’s someone else’s political story. Order carefully, but my bet is that this is a story that some of your customers will want to read.

9780801007330 | 208 pages | hardcover | October 3, 2017

Do They Verify These Orders?

At US SRP: $2,360.00 US (Discount: NET) per copy, I’m wondering if Ingram phones you to verify that you meant to click this in. A good reason to keep disgruntled employees who are planning to quit later today off the computer.

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Christian Video in Germany

You’ll recognize all of these, from To Save a Life to Do You Believe? to Priceless, and of course both God’s Not Dead films.

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Comparing Two Books about Jackie Robinson

Our good friend Jeff Snow is in bivocational, bidenominational ministry. For half of his week he is a college and university campus worker with Mission Canada, a division of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada, and the the other half of his week sees him acting as interim pastor in a church that is part of Canadian Baptists.

He’s also a big sports fan, especially baseball and he has always admired the courage and testimony of Jackie Robinson. Back in May we shared his thoughts on the book 42 Faith by Ed Henry. You can read that again at this link. So when Westminster John Knox Press released Jackie Robinson: A Spiritual Biography–The Faith of a Boundary-Breaking Hero by Michael G. Long and Chris Lamb, Jeff was first to purchase a copy from our store. We decided to give this book equal time and let Jeff share his opinions.

I just read the second book.  It was shorter and laid out like a more traditional biography than the other and it didn’t meander as much.  The writers did a very good job going into Robinson’s formative years of faith and the influence of his mother and pastor.  For those unfamiliar with his story, the authors [of this second book] give many of the basics of the Robinson story, but through the lens of faith.  The other book I think assumes a little more knowledge of the story on the part of the reader.

Half the book is given over to Robinson’s post-baseball career working for civil rights.  Here we see the evolution of Robinson’s leanings towards more of a social gospel, as well as a slight liberal bias on the part of the author.

Overall I found the book very good.  More concise and focused than the other one, with a few more convincing arguments for the faith motivation behind both Robinson’s and manager Branch Rickey’s actions.

So Christian bookstore readers who are baseball fans now have a choice!

 

The “Christian Book” Department of Michael’s Arts and Crafts Stores

I was a little surprised yesterday when walking through the Belleville location of Michael’s to see that they actually had a Christian book department.

At first my eyes caught the lower shelf. Colouring Bibles and adult colouring books. Okay. I get that. Though NIV and NLT Bibles in Michael’s was something my brain needed an extra few seconds to process.

But then as I was walking away, I noticed the upper shelf. Jesus Calling. Books related to the movie FireproofBattlefield of the Mind. In other words, product from HarperCollins and Foundation and Parasource and Word Alive.

And much of it discounted below what Christian stores can sell it for.

Are they doing this because of the large Christian presence in Hobby Lobby? The two chains are very similar. But this is also competition for the remaining Christian bookstores; in fact just by posting this here, when Google finds this I will inevitably be sending them customers.


In the top picture, note that the Bibles are not surviving in this environment. The dust jacket of the one on the left is badly torn and the shrink-wrap is off the Aspire Bibles on the right.

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Loonie Making Gains Against American Dollar

In the 90 days since April 20th, the Canadian dollar (CAD) has been trending upwards, which means the U.S. dollar (USD) is costing us less, even as conversion rates from Canadian distributors remain fixed. The Forex graph below shows the cost of the USD falling from above 1.37 in early May to an even 1.26 on Wednesday.

Will conversion rates for books change soon? Often suppliers are quick to raise rates when our dollar is on its way down, but when the situation reverses, argue that inventories were purchased at the higher cost.

We reached out yesterday to one distributor who is using 1.4000 who did not respond.

Over a year ago when stores were using STL, invoices were paid at the current rate, but with Word Alive “replacing” STL for many stores, the Canadian prices are fixed, making it impossible to take advantage of the present situation.

However, in this discussion, be careful what you wish for. The lower USD devalues much of your current inventory and also encourages your exchange-rate-savvy customers to buy online. Furthermore, some of the larger bankruptcies and closings in this country happened when the CAD was doing extremely well.

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One Author Dominated Christian Fiction in Central Europe

Most of the familiar Christian writers I encountered in Germany and Czech Republic were non-fiction authors. The one exception was Wm. Paul Young. In Prague The Shack was everywhere, but there also seemed to be strong representation for Crossroads and especially the new title, Eve. All were stacked high in multiple copies. In Germany we saw a theatre running The Shack or as it’s called there, Die Hütte. It’s one thing to know the foreign book market exists, but it’s another thing to interact directly with the product in its home territory.

 

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You Never Know Who is Asking for a Book Recommendation

Let’s pretend I walk into your store and ask, “Do you have a good book on the atonement?” What would you recommend?

From an article on Welsh preacher Martin Lloyd-Jones:

…His biographer writes that when he was a young man in the late 1920s Lloyd-Jones preached one night at a church in South Wales. Following the service, a retired minister pulled the young preacher aside and challenged him with a gentle but stinging critique. Lloyd-Jones never forgot his words:  

“…the Cross and the work of Christ appear to have little place in your preaching.”

…So, what did he do? What would you do? Dismiss the critic? Ignore the challenge? By God’s grace, Lloyd-Jones did neither. He didn’t take it personal but he did take it serious.

Lloyd-Jones never went to seminary, but he had a hunger to learn and grow in his understanding of theology. He went to his favorite bookstore and asked for the two standard books on the Atonement. He denied himself food and sleep until he finished both volumes. It concerned his wife, who thought “the doctor” was ill.

But he was far from sick. Lloyd-Jones would emerge from his study a new man with a more complete and healthy understanding of his life, ministry and preaching…

You never know the value of having something on your shelves that can revolutionize someone’s life or ministry.

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Chasing Christian Book Titles in Central Europe

We’re back from Europe. Woke up this morning in Prague. Over the next few days we’ll show you some books that were in general market bookstores there. They take their Christian books seriously, there isn’t any fluff. Gave me lots to think about regarding the books we will stock moving forward. Here’s a look at a couple of Lee Strobel books, Case for Christ and Case for a Creator in Czech was in one store. Case for Faith turned up in several stores.

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Meeting Requests for Donations

Bookstore owners are constantly asked to put up posters, donate merchandise, or otherwise get behind locally based Christian ministry projects. We have about twelve parachurch organizations in our community, and we both personally and as a bookstore endorse ten of these. When we’re asked to donate to broader community programs we explain that our particular mandate is to church-based or church-related organizations; that the population at large will give to the more popular causes, but only church people will give to causes that identify boldly as Christian-centered.

Some days we feel if anyone needs a fund raising banquet or a tag day it’s us. We regularly support things where the ministry staff receive — no exaggeration — eight to ten times in salary what we’re drawing from the bookstore.

We try to use a complex formula consisting of questions like:

(a) How widely known is the organization?
(b) How great and urgent is the need?
(c) Who else is on board?
(d) How able is the constituency benefiting by this able to help themselves or secure their own support? 

How do you deal with requests like these?

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Why Not Try a Book?

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Being Made to Jump Through the Hoops

Every once in awhile you learn a new word. Recently it was hidebound. Basically, it means rule-bound, though dictionary.com offers these:

  • oriented toward or confined to the past; extremely conservative
  • restricted by petty rules, a conservative attitude, etc

Many of our suppliers treat retailers like children. You have to jump through the hoops or you don’t get dessert. One Canadian supplier launched over a decade ago with something like this: “Our policies: We have no policy except common sense.” Years later, they had created more bureaucracy than anyone else we dealt with.

But as retailers, we can do this also. If our exchange policies are as tightly controlled as some of our suppliers’ return policies; or if every tiny custom order requires a massive deposit; then our stores can’t be what they are meant to be: A place of grace.

So the comic from Chuckle Brothers seemed appropriate. The store exists on both sides of the international date line. The item is on sale for one day only, but not on the side with the checkout. “Sorry,” the clerk says, “That sale ended yesterday.” When is a sale not a sale?

After the initial laugh, we have to ask ourselves if some of our customers perceive our store that way.

  • Do we have unnecessary policies that could be eliminated and replaced with common sense?
  • Can we maintain policies to fall back on in difficult circumstances, but let the rule of grace dictate the corporate culture and spiritual atmosphere of our stores?
  • Do we need to give our institutional, church, and bulk-purchase accounts some power of arrangement; the flexibility necessary so they can get what they really need?
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