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Tim Challies on Amazon’s Control Over Christian Publishers

An article released Friday by Canada’s Tim Challies on the influence that Amazon now has on the Christian publishing market has been making the rounds, and I wanted to wait a few days before responding. You can find The Power Over Christian Publishing We’ve Given To Amazon by clicking this link.

He begins dramatically,

A few days from now, or maybe a few months, or even a year, Amazon will pull a book from its site. One day it will be there available for purchase with all the rest, and the next it will be gone. One day people will be able to order it and have it shipped to their homes, and the next day it will have ceased to exist, at least as far as Amazon is concerned. This will inevitably be a book that Christians have embraced as orthodox but that the culture has rejected as heretical…

We’ve seen some of this already, so it isn’t prophetic. He then sets the stage defining the challenge for the future:

…[W]e inadvertently handed Amazon a near-monopoly over the sale of Christian books. We did this with the good-faith assumption that they would continue to sell whatever we published. But times have changed and are changing and it seems increasingly unlikely that Amazon will continue to sell it all. It seems increasingly likely that they will cede to cultural pressure—pressure that exists both within and outside of the company—and begin to cull their offerings. And then what? It’s not like these books cannot be sold by the Christian retailers that remain. But will publishers even be willing or able to publish them if they cannot be sold at the world’s biggest marketplace? Will you and I even be able to find out about them if Amazon isn’t recommending them to us? And will we be willing to pay a premium to have them shipped to us from smaller retailers with higher prices and no ability to offer free shipping?…

In a way, this is nothing new. Spin the search engine wheel and you’ll find many articles from the past accusing Christian publishers of only selling things that will do well at Family Christian Stores or LifeWay. But now FCS is gone, and LifeWay is phasing out its physical presence in America’s cities and towns.

Why publish something which retail won’t carry? That’s been a challenge, but now that in many parts of North America there is no retail (in the traditional sense) indie-published books compete with those from the larger, established publishing houses. The online behemoth is in many respects now calling the shots. Brick and mortar retail stores don’t matter as they once did; we’ve lost our influence.

What is new is the people to whom that power has been ceded. While dealing with a different aspect of this, Tim Challies correctly notes that, “Amazon is hardly a company founded by Christians or run according to Christian principles. To the contrary, it is a company founded by worldly people and run according to worldly principles.”

And beyond the social issues Tim mentions, it bothers me that Amazon has no filters. A Jehovah’s Witness title, New Age title or an LDS title is just as likely to turn up in the search results as something from Baker, Zondervan or David C. Cook. Already, I’ve heard stories of people who unwittingly bought inappropriate books based on search engine results. This in and of itself highlights the value of Christian bookstore buyers and proprietors.

So what if those Christian publishers said to Amazon, “Since you now advertise as ‘the world’s largest bookstore,’ it would be nice if you would carry our titles exhaustively instead of selectively” or even dared to suggest that, “If you won’t carry everything, we won’t sell you anything at all.” If A-zon called their bluff on that, it would be devastating both to authors and consumers, since if a book’s A-zon listing doesn’t appear in search results, the book, for all intents and purposes, ceases to exist.

Again, to read the article at challies.com, click this link.

 

Reasons to Avoid Political Discussions at the Store

This article needs to be seen by all bookstore employees.

Ever since Donald Trump began his bid for the Republican nomination, much of our evening news feed, and many of our personal conversations have been preoccupied with politics. Discussions seem to be unavoidable.

With an election looming here in Canada this fall, the debates underway for the Democratic nomination in the U.S., and the recent election of Doug Ford in Ontario, political mindedness is sure to escalate. It’s easy for politics to creep into conversations at the Christian bookstore.

Here are some things to keep in mind.

First of all your store is an oasis, the type of place where some people go to get away from these types of discussion.

That’s important because the main focus of conversation should be about Jesus. That’s our distinctive; what sets us apart from the gas station, the clothing store, the grocery supermarket.

It’s also important because two Christians can have totally opposite views. We see this in the U.S.; there are Christian Republicans and Christian Democrats. There are Republicans who simply can’t support the President because of character issues. There are people who believe that Donald Trump is God’s man for the hour; a fulfillment of prophecy. There are people who think he’s the devil! It’s complicated.

Despite this, Christians are going to have opinions on social issues. Things like gun control, reproductive rights, immigration, LGBTQ subjects etc. are going to come up and it’s important to see these things from a Christian perspective…

…But here again we run a risk when we make these discussions political in nature. Only Jesus can change hearts and minds on key issues. Furthermore, nobody knows for sure that electing a particular Premier/Governor or Prime Minister/President is going to be an instant cure related to a perceived social ailment. It might be a small part of a larger agenda, but not necessarily a guarantee that anything would ever happen after the election.

It’s also important to remember that any statements you make reflect the store. This is true of each and every employee as well. If you take a position that doesn’t resonate with the customer, they’re going to say, “Well, Janet at the bookstore said that…” and that could be a form of negative publicity with that customer’s friends.

You also need to know, even if you’re speaking with one of your best personal friends, that someone else may enter the store and overhear the conversation and that person may miss the preamble or context that brought you to where you are in the discussion. And again, that person might say, “The people who run the bookstore think that…;” when in fact it was a comment by a part-time employee.

On that subject, remember that the conversation might be a trap. Someone may be trying to force someone to say something that is incriminating in the broader marketplace. I nearly made the mistake in early May of telling a customer I wouldn’t order something for her particular fringe group, and I had to walk it back and say that more accurately, I didn’t think our suppliers made what she wanted, but if she went to a particular website and found something suitable, I would bring it in for her. You don’t want to be the next headline-making legal case.

Finally, although our goal is always to point people to books on major issues, we sometimes find that there are very few Christian books on some of these subjects. Shane Claiborne is outspoken on gun control and the Unplanned DVD (when it releases) makes a point about abortion; but on the subject if immigration, much of what is written is from a secular perspective or from an academic perspective. On our store’s “Gender Issues” shelf there is a disclaimer which states that author positions on LGBTQ subjects may vary from book to book.1

You want people to be engaged, but at the same time, I think Christian bookstores need to exercise caution in political discourse.


Postscript: I know that in the U.S. “Christian Voter Guide” booklets are distributed in church lobbies and by the front door of Christian bookstores. People there wear their political loyalties on their sleeves and if the store is freestanding building, they will put election signs on the front lawn or in the window. However, we don’t have such guidebooks here and I don’t think political partisanship works well in a Canadian context. My advice would be: Don’t do it.


1Back in the ’90s when the abortion issue was quite heated (as it is now) I offered a customer $100 if they could even find a book on the abortion issue in my store. (There was one, by Chuck Colson, but only I knew that!) The point is that when people say “Christians are all homophobic” or “Christians are against a woman’s choice with her body” I would emphasize that 99% of the books in the store are not even remotely touching on these issues.

Thomas Nelson Offers 30 Editions of the NET Bible Translation

All of the editions of the NET Bible are plain covers with only the small logo in the upper left corner. Release date for all 30 editions is October 1, 2019.

For its 3rd Cycle in 2019, Thomas Nelson has picked up the NET Bible which it will offer in various Thinline, Thinline Large Print, Journal and ‘Full Notes’ editions with all using the new Comfort Print font. Wikipedia provides some history:

The [New English Translation] and extensive notes were undertaken by more than twenty biblical scholars who worked directly from the best currently available Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts. The NET Bible was initially conceived at an annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in November 1995 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The translation project originally started as an attempt to provide a digital version of a modern English translation over the Internet and on CD-ROM without cost for the user: “The NET Bible project was commissioned to create a faithful Bible translation that could be placed on the Internet, downloaded for free, and used around the world for ministry.” Many of those involved in the project’s initial discussions eventually became part of the translation team. The translation itself claims to be non-sectarian, “inter-denominational” and evangelical.

The NET Bible’s approach to copyright is self-summarized as:

The Bible is God’s gift to humanity – it should be free.

If you’re wondering about the ‘Full Notes’ edition, this article offers five features, the first of which is that the

NET Bible includes extensive notes with the translation, notes created by the original translators as they worked through the issues and options concerning the translation of the original language texts of the Bible. These notes operate on more than one level – a technical level for pastors, teachers, and students of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek who are interested in the grammatical, syntactical, and text-critical details of the translation, and a more popular level comparable to current study Bibles offering explanatory details of interest to lay Bible students.

You can read the text online at this link.

Thomas Nelson has a history of snapping up distribution of new, innovative translations. Looking back over the years, one remembers,

  • The Everyday Bible (New Century Translation)
  • The Voice Bible (a translation using dramatic script)
  • The Expanded Bible (an alternative to the Amplified Bible)

but sadly, within 2-3 years the company loses interest and suspends marketing and the printing of new editions; often flooding the remainder/overstock market with more varieties than it lists in its own catalogues.

But there is a market for new Bible editions, if the consumer can be convinced that there’s something to be gained in owning a copy. Prices listed below are in Canadian currency:

9780785224648 NET Bible, Full-notes Edition, COB Gray 61.99
9780785225096 NET Bible, Full-notes Edition, Leathersoft, Teal 86.99
9780785225102 NET Bible, Full-notes Edition, Leathersoft, Teal IDX 98.99
9780785225164 NET Bible, Full-notes Edition, Leathersoft, Black 86.99
9780785225089 NET Bible, Full-notes Edition, Leathersoft, Black, IDX 98.99
9780785225119 NET Bible, Full-notes Edition, Genuine Leather, Brown 135.99
9780785225126 NET Bible, Full-notes Edition, Genuine Leather, Brown IDX 148.99
9780785224716 NET Bible, Thinline, COB, Gray 36.99
9780785224921 NET Bible, Thinline, Leathersoft, Stone 36.99
9780785224969 NET Bible, Thinline, Leathersoft, Stone IDX 49.99
9780785224976 NET Bible, Thinline, Leathersoft, Teal 36.99
9780785224983 NET Bible, Thinline, Leathersoft, Teal IDX 49.99
9780785224907 NET Bible, Thinline, Leathersoft, Brown 36.99
9780785224914 NET Bible, Thinline, Leathersoft, Brown IDX 49.99
9780785224884 NET Bible, Thinline, Leathersoft, Black 36.99
9780785224891 NET Bible, Thinline, Leathersoft, Black IDX 49.99
9780785224730 NET Bible, Thinline Large Print, COB, Gray 49.99
9780785225010 NET Bible, Thinline Large Print, Leathersoft, Brown 49.99
9780785225027 NET Bible, Thinline Large Print, Leathersoft, Brown IDX 61.99
9780785225034 NET Bible, Thinline Large Print, Leathersoft, Stone 49.99
9780785225041 NET Bible, Thinline Large Print, Leathersoft, Stone IDX 61.99
9780785225058 NET Bible, Thinline Large Print, Leathersoft, Teal 49.99
9780785225065 NET Bible, Thinline Large Print, Leathersoft, Teal IDX 61.99
9780785224990 NET Bible, Thinline Large Print, Leathersoft, Black 49.99
9780785225003 NET Bible, Thinline Large Print, Leathersoft, Black, IDX 61.99
9780785224655 NET Bible, Journal Edition, COB Gray 55.99
9780785224808 NET Bible, Journal Edition, COB Coral 55.99
9780785224877 NET Bible, Journal Edition, Leathersoft, Teal 55.99
9780785224860 NET Bible, Journal Edition, Leathersoft, Brown 55.99
9780785224693 NET Bible, Pew and Worship, Hardcover, Black 21.00

 

Ontario Author’s Extensive Work is a Manual for People Dealing with Trauma

In a single moment, my entire life shattered before my eyes. Everything inside of me desperately wanted to scream out in order to give release to the excruciating pain. My mind was frantically scrambling, trying to make sense of what had just happened. Staring wide-eyed at my mom and with all sincerity, I concluded with, “Everything you’ve told me about God and Heaven had better be true!”

Last week I had the privilege of meeting Linda Joy.

Although she was in the store as a customer, toward the end of our time I learned about a book she had recently completed with Essence Publishing, and then we had a whole other conversation!

Journey from Redemption to Restoration: A Firsthand Account – Detailing the Faithfulness of God is probably one of the most unusual books I have ever held in my hands.  It transcends many different writing genres, making a description here challenging. It is a faith-inspiring series of personal stories of experiences that can only be described as miraculous. Miraculous in the sense of things like healing, but also in the sense of God moving in the everyday, such as repeatedly providing much needed housing just when it was needed.

In spelling out these stories however, the book serves a definite teaching function. There are times that Linda “breaks the fourth wall” and addresses readers directly, even to the point of having places in the book where readers can write their own name and the date, making their own declaration of casting their worries and anxieties on God.

This is the end product of reading these anecdotes. Linda tells of a situation where before prayer for healing, six people first gave their testimonies to help increase her faith. In a way, that’s a meta-reference to the book itself; she now does that for her readers believing her story can raise their trust and reliance on God.

In Linda Joy’s mind, the book is an anthology; she sees its writing style as similar to the Chicken Soup for the … Soul series of titles. In so doing, the personal vignettes from her life are arranged in twelve different categories. While the individual stories are concisely presented, as I skimmed the book’s 362 pages, it was impossible to read a single narrative in isolation without having to continue to the next.

She also sees the book as “a manual for trauma.” It’s the type of book that you could read sequentially, but also find yourself referring back to individual sections. I can also see this as a helpful resource for those who provide counseling to others. 

Linda Joy has chosen to live out the rest of her life in total thanksgiving to her Heavenly Father for all He has done, carefully unwrapping, thoroughly enjoying, and readily acknowledging each new day as His gift to her. She is a personal friend and intentional follower of Jesus Christ.
– from the Publisher website for Journey From Redemption.


Journey from Redemption to Restoration is published by Essence Publishing of Belleville; 362 pages; 35.00 CDN. ISBN: 978-1-4600-0869-0

Book trailer:

 

 

What My Customers Are Buying

This list reflects what’s going on in Cobourg, Ontario. Nothing more. It may not resemble your store anymore than this ECPA list for May resembles my store. But I thought I’d share it with you.

The one thing we’ve noticed is that unlike the list we did about six months ago, this one reflects a much higher percentage of backlist titles. Christian publishing generally has a stronger backlist than its secular counterpart, and frankly I’m thankful because without that, we would have nothing to sell.

The personal shocker for me was the absence of anything by Karen Kingsbury on this list. Our customers in our market — and I can only speak for myself — won’t pay the price for first edition hardcovers, even though we adopted an “Our Price” sticker program on hardcovers for the past six months. By the time Karen’s books convert to trade paper it seems that lately she’s lost all momentum for that particular title.

We’re grateful for Baker Books and HarperCollins Christian Publishing giving us International Trade Paperback Editions (ITPEs). Frankly, woe to Waterbrook (Penguin Random House), FaithWords (Hachette), and Howard Publishing (Simon & Schuster) if they don’t wake up and smell the coffee and realize what they’re losing in this market. Remember though, it’s literary agents who often insist that Canada be considered part of the U.S. market for royalty purposes, so aim all your attack on the publishers; there are cases where they were helpless, but there are just as many cases where they could advise the lawyers they’re killing their sales up here.

We also saw a general decline in fiction sales. Children’s Bible story books are a strong category as are Children’s picture books. Devotionals are strong, but spread out over too many titles to make our list (other than #11) Other book categories aren’t seeing anywhere near the action we see with things like boxed cards, DVDs, and the whole gifts-under-$10 category.

If your store does a local market chart, please consider sharing it with our readers.

How They See Us: Literary Hub Looks at Christian Publishing

The Quiet Revolution in Evangelical
Christian Publishing

The article begins:

How does one begin to describe the world of evangelical Christian publishing? It’s an industry whose target consumers make up a percentage of annual book sales ($600 million) that’s smaller than annual worldwide sales of Garfield merchandise, but still occupies a powerful place in its target demo’s consciousness. It’s replete with its own set of niche presses, academic imprints, literary agents and Big Five-funded publishing houses that exist apart from the New York City’s publishing scene. It’s an insular economy whose power players are nestled into the suburbs of cities like Grand Rapids, Michigan; Colorado Springs, Colorado; and Nashville, Tennessee; where book proposals are evaluated not only by their sales potential, but by their broadest theological implications. Here we have a sect of the publishing world where women have held much of the buying power, but proportionally, precious little social capital in their own homes and in their churches.

Author Kathryn Watson spends the rest of the article continuing this theme, looking at the women authors in the field.

Continue reading the whole article at Literary Hub.

Christian Publishing News Updates

■ Ever wondered how Warner Press got its name? Christianity Today invites you to meet Warner Sallman: The guy whose picture of Jesus was once found in more churches and hospitals than any other image. “What changed in the 20th century with Sallman, was that Jesus images met American advertising and mass production. Prayer met plastic… Despite his beard, the “Head of Christ” is anything but hipster irony…Apparently, Sallman was attempting to create a more masculine Jesus than earlier portrayals. Ironically, many now find his Jesus effeminate — demonstrating the extent to which definitions of “masculine” are cultural and fluid rather than biological. In Jesus’ own day, and as a Jew in the Roman Empire, masculinity was as contested then as it is now.” 

■ Knowing what we sell: Apologia Studios posted this 50-minute video podcast “explosive and compelling story of Lindsay Davis who defected from Bethel” and addresses some concerns that I think booksellers should be aware of, even as we sell Bill Johnson’s books and Bethel Worship’s music.

♫ Gloria Gaynor, who had a hit song I Will Survive, has signed with Gaither Music Group for an album releasing early summer. Make sure your staff know what customers are asking for. Not to be confused with Gloria Gaither. This one is Gaynor.  

■ Wanda Brunstetter has officially passed the 11-million mark in book sales. Rush-To-Press reports on the Barbour Publishing author: “Brunstetter is undeniably one of the most prolific authors in both the Christian and mainstream markets with a published book list that exceeds 100 titles. A number of her works have frequented the nation’s most prestigious bestseller lists including the NY Times, USA Today, Publishers Weekly, ECPA, and more. Most recently, The Hope Jar, book 1 in her Prayer Jars series, has remained on the ECPA fiction bestsellers list 8 months straight since its August 2018 release.” Two more titles will release simultaneously in June.

■ Literary agent Steve Laube sits down with Publisher’s Weekly to discuss the changing landscape of Christian book marketing. “Publishers continue to brace themselves for the loss of even more Christian retail outlets this year, but the strongest impact of store closings could be leveled at authors in the category. The shrinking footprint of Christian retailers is already leading to a new normal where writers are also expected to have a marketing team behind them…”

■ Are you selling as many funeral bulletins as before? Just when a bunch of boomers are getting ready to die, the funeral industry is being shaken. “…Somber, embalmed-body funerals, with their $9,000 industry average price tag, are, for many families, a relic. Instead, end-of-life ceremonies are being personalized: golf-course cocktail send-offs, backyard potluck memorials, more Sinatra and Clapton, less “Ave Maria,” more Hawaiian shirts, fewer dark suits. Families want to put the “fun” in funerals…The movement will only accelerate as the nation approaches a historic spike in deaths. Baby boomers, despite strenuous efforts to stall the aging process, are not getting any younger…” The Washington Post reports on “thinking outside the box. (With fewer weddings and funerals, what will provide extra cash for pastors a decade from now?)

Tribute: In one of his best articles yet, Carey Nieuwhof asks who will replace Eugene Peterson and others like him when that generation passes from the scene. Seven important things that people of Peterson’s ilk have in common.

■ New Music from 🇬🇧 – Iron Lung by Martin Smith (of Delirious) But why that title? “Smith called on early memories of struggling for breath and how he needed oxygen to keep him alive. The vital importance of breath came into focus for him as a young child when he was diagnosed with a severe case of bronchial pneumonia. He was placed into an oxygen tent, similar to an early 19th-century iron lung device, which kept him alive while his parents fervently prayed for God to save his life. This harrowing experience set a course for Smith, giving him an acute perspective of the fragility of life and how God’s presence, His very breath, can restore what’s been broken.” Read more at NewReleaseToday.

■ Clean presentation: If you want to see what a webpage should look like which is promoting a series of books, you can’t do better than this one at Christian Book Discounters in South Africa.

■ Another one going off the rails? Highly respected for his work in founding anti-pornography ministry XXXChurch.com, author and pastor Craig Gross has launched Christian Canabis and recommends weed as an aid to worship. No it’s not a month-late April Fool’s story; it appeared Monday in The Christian Post. The quote: “I’ve never lifted my hands in a worship service ever, ‘cause I was raised Baptist. … I’ve done that in my bathroom worshiping with marijuana by myself.”

■ Who the cool kids are reading: You won’t get an actual schedule of speakers for the 2019 Wild Goose Festival until a few weeks before the event, but there are clues here and here and here. (Why promote when you can tease?)

Veggie Tales is back in the hands of the original creative team. “Brand-new episodes of VeggieTales are on the way, courtesy of a partnership between Trinity Broadcasting Network and Big Idea Content Group. Each episode will remain true to the classic VeggieTales brand to deliver clever storytelling, Biblically-based lessons, and memorable songs.” 

First there were Christian T-shirts and now… leggings? Would you sell these in your store? That’s Psalm 23 in case you missed it. We found this one at Zazzle.com.


■ I hope you find this update useful. Here’s a few graphics we created in a hurry to meet specific needs on our Facebook page this week. Feel free to steal them or adapt them. If you really, really need something and can’t create these yourselves, feel free to email me and ask for a favour!

 

 

End of an Era: LifeWay to Close All 170 Retail Stores

Breaking Story

On January 6th, 2018 the iconic James Draper Tower of the LifeWay complex in downtown Nashville was demolished. Thursday’s announcement of the closing of the retail chain sends even bigger shock waves. [Source: Tennessean – see below]

Religion News Service reported:

LifeWay Christian Resources announced Wednesday (March 20) it will close all 170 of its brick-and-mortar stores this year.

That comes as LifeWay, the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, shifts its resources online.

Local news media The Tennessean reported:

The company plans to shift to a digital strategy as consumers increasingly rely on online shopping, a challenge that retailers face nationally. LifeWay resources, such as online Bible studies and worship plans, will be offered at LifeWay.com, through the LifeWay Customer Service Center and through its network of church partners

“LifeWay is fortunate to have a robust publishing, events and church services business. Our retail strategy for the future will be a greater focus on digital channels, which are experiencing strong growth,” [CEO Brad] Waggoner said. “LifeWay is moving into a new era with a strategic digital focus that will prepare us for the future and allow us to better serve our customers.”

At LifeWay’s Facts and Trends website, more details:

…The timing of store closings will vary depending on local circumstances. LifeWay expects all brick-and-mortar stores to close by the end of the year…

…In one month, LifeWay interacts with five times as many people through its digital environments as it does through LifeWay stores…

Unlike the 2017 closing of another Christian retail chain, Family Christian Stores, this is not a receivership. The FCS closing affected over 3,000 employees and also devastated publishers, music companies and giftware suppliers who were also sent reeling with the closing of Send the Light, a large wholesale distributor. FCS closed 240 stores in comparison to LifeWay’s current 170. In contrast, the website for Parable explains that, “Parable Christian Stores are locally owned and operated franchise stores run by people who desire to resource their community with Christian products.”

But there is no doubt the LifeWay decision will have an impact on authors, musicians, and a host of other creatives who make the products that Christian bookstores sell. It will also have ripple-effect repercussions on everything from how Christian products are marketed and promoted to Christian music concert tours. 

But not every author, musician, or film producer is affected as the RNS story reminded us that many had their products outright banned by the chain:

[Rachel Held] Evans said Wednesday that she doesn’t rejoice over any bookstore closing and she is mindful that LifeWay’s closing means many people will lose their jobs.

But, she said, “for too long Lifeway’s fundamentalist standards have loomed over Christian publishing, stifling the creativity and honesty of writers of faith.

“I hope this news reinforces to writers, editors, and marketers across the industry that we don’t have to conform to Southern Baptist doctrine and culture to sell books. Readers are hungry for literature that embraces the complexity, nuance, and ragged edges of real-life faith and for bookshelves that reflect the diversity of the Church.”

Other people on Twitter responding to the closure didn’t share Evans’ compassion and were outright gleeful that the chain, long known for its restrictive practices was shutting down. “News we can celebrate;” said one, while @SBCExplainer, an official SBC account, countered with, “[L]et’s band together to dispel any notions that LifeWay is ‘going under’. LifeWay will continue to be the largest Christian resources provider in the world.”

As the story broke in local markets where the company has locations, several reports indicated that store management knew their closing date was coming at the end of May. SBCExplainer also noted that campus bookstores operated by LifeWay at seminaries would also be closing. Also included in the closing is the new flagship store built less than a year ago in the new LifeWay building after the first property was sold and demolished. (See photo above.)

More information was being posted on the store’s FAQ page.

[Last updated 8:42 AM 3.21]

This is developing story; check back for updates.

 

The Newest NIV Study Bible is Actually a Rebranding

I hate to say, “I told you so.”

At the time of its original release, I said the name, “NIV Zondervan Study Bible” would be too easily confused with the flagship “NIV Study Bible.” Time and the marketplace proved this correct.

So when the time came to convert the Bible to the new Comfort Print font — a change still in progress involving every Bible product sold by both Thomas Nelson and Zondervan — they decided it was a good time to change the name to “NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible.”

They also moved D. A. Carson’s name to the top which is both in keeping with what is seen on academic books in a series, and also creates resonance for the all important Reformed/Calvinist market, which Zondervan would love to lure from the ESV back to NIV.

The other bonus was that with comfort print, people who formerly needed large print can get away with the regular edition. The large print version of the older title was simply huge. So they’ve effective killed two birds with one stone. I actually proved the truth of this yesterday with one satisfied (I hope!) customer.


The original advertising from a few years ago highlighted many of the Reformed/Calvinist contributors. I’m sure they would argue this isn’t, strictly speaking, a Reformed product.

NIV Zondervan Study Bible

And a comparison chart showed the main differences in chart form:

NIV Study Bibles compared


Appendix One: People who feel they are in the market for larger print in a Bible are actually looking at five factors:

Font Size – To meet expectations, “large” should be at least 10.0 point and “giant” should be at least 12.0 point; but the key phrase here is “at least.” Ideally, I’d like to see “large” at about 11.5 and “giant” at about 14.0.” Also, generally speaking large print books are much more generous in font size — as well as the other four factors listed below — than large print Bibles. Some readers who have purchased large print books before question the application of the term when it’s applied to Bibles with smaller fonts. If you’re in a store and they have a font size guide posted, that gives you the language to express what you’re looking for, but don’t go by online guides, as they are sized at the whim of your monitor settings.

Typeface – This consideration is the basis of Zondervan and Thomas Nelson’s move — started last year and continuing throughout 2018 — to “Comfort Print” on all their Bible editions. Some typefaces are simply fatter than others. Personally, I like the clean look of a sans serif font (think Arial/Helvetica) such as Zondervan was using on its Textbook Bibles. But others like the look of a serif font (think Times New Roman) instead. But Comfort Print is a great innovation and I find when it’s available that people who think they need large print don’t, and other who think they might need giant print (with other publishers) can work with Comfort Print’s large print. You can think of this in terms of the difference between regular and bold face.

Leading – This one is actually quite important, and we’ll leave the definition to Wikipedia: “In typography, leading (/ˈlɛdɪŋ/ LED-ing) refers to the distance between the baselines of successive lines of type. The term originated in the days of hand-typesetting, when thin strips of lead were inserted into the forms to increase the vertical distance between lines of type.” One Bible publisher which I won’t name is notorious for using a large font but then crowding their lines of type together. The issue here is white space. If you look at the Wisdom Books of the Bible (which are typeset as poetry with more white space and wider margins) and compare to the History Books or Gospels (which are typeset as prose, both right-justified and left-justified) you see the advantage created by white space.

Inking – Some Bibles are not generously inked. There are sometimes also inconsistencies between different printings of the same Bible edition, and even inconsistencies between page sections of a single Bible. Text should be dark enough to offer high contrast to the white paper. Furthermore, some older adults have eye problems which make reading red-letter editions difficult. If that’s the case — and you don’t always know ahead of time — use a page from the Gospels as a sample.

Bleed Through – On the other hand, you don’t want to see type from the previous or following page. Bible paper is usually thin paper, which means the potential for bleed-through is huge. On the other hand, holding Bibles up to the light isn’t a fair test. Rather, the place where you check out the Bible should be well-lit and then pages should be examined in the same context you would read them at home. It is possible that an individual simply needs a better quality reading lamp.


Appendix Two: An edited list of features from the publisher marketing includes:

• 28 theological articles by authors such as Tim Keller and Kevin DeYoung; over 60 contributors.
• 20,000 verse-by-verse study notes
• 2,560 pages!
• Hundreds of full-color photos
• Over 90 Maps and over 60 Charts
• Book Introductions
• Cross-references and Concordance
• Single-column, Black Letter


Note: This is a news article. Zondervan didn’t supply a review copy — I already have the original which I traded for the large print I desired — and did not sponsor this blog article.  

Retailers: The graphic which heads the article is proportioned for store Facebook pages.

with files from Thinking Out Loud blog

 

Word Alive Announcement Rattles Other Distributors

February 25, 2019 2 comments

Christian Book Shop Talk Exclusive – Not Available for Reprint

This image from the cover of an old Petra album is an apt descriptor for the state of Canadian Christian product distribution after an aggressive announcement from Word Alive.

We returned from holidays last week to discover that a February 12th email from Word Alive, titled “Important and exciting announcement for 2019!” was still being greatly discussed at the distributor level. The opening paragraph of the announcement includes:

Word Alive / Anchor are proud to announce that we have partnered with numerous companies (see list below) to provide greater distribution options for you in Canada for the coming year. Some of the Publishers listed are already represented by other Canadian Distributors and some will be exclusive to us. We have been specifically asked by these “non-exclusive” publishers to sell, market and distribute their resources. It’s been sometime since the Canadian market has seen this type of competition but, in the end, I believe it’s necessary for a healthy industry.

When I worked for Triwel (G. R. Welch) in the late 1980s, even though the company already had a significant roster of distributed publishers, there was a corporate push to get other distributors to renew contracts with U.S. companies on a non-exclusive basis. At the same time, R. G. Mitchell was vigorously protecting its exclusive contracts, to the point of sending threatening-sounding letters to dealers reminding them that violating the terms of RGM’s exclusive contracts — i.e. buying from other sources — was punishable under Canadian law.

The retail practice of buying from other sources is often called “buying around;” since you’re going around the Canadian distributor. It happens every time a store needs something right away for a customer, and the Canadian distributor doesn’t have it, but Spring Arbor does. Or the freight would be prohibitive with supplier “A” but it’s easy to throw it in with an order to supplier “B,” often helping to meet a minimum order set by supplier “B.” [As one of several stores which have been cut off from full trade discount by Spring Arbor for failing to meet their $5,000 annual purchase minimum, I no longer have the option of doing this efficiently.]

When Send the Light Distribution (STL) rose to prominence, the situation changed. This was a case of a U.S. one-source distributor selling into Canada, so their entire database was at the disposal of Canadian stores.  Buying around was easy, since STL’s freight costs weren’t as high as Spring Arbor’s. [Again, on a personal note, three years ago in a conversation with the head of one of the Canadian distributors he unexpectedly said, “What do you care what we do, you buy all your books from STL.” That simply wasn’t true, and I demanded an apology I have never received. I immediately halved my purchasing from that company, and it remains today at less than 50% of what it could be had he worked to repair the damage.]

With the buyout of Word Alive by Anchor Distributors things took on an added dimension. Some of us had already used Anchor in the past for bargain Whitaker House books (no longer available) and resources from small Charismatic publishers. Word Alive created a separate Canadian website and capped the freight at 3% on orders over $250. Despite this, everything in the Anchor database was available to Canadian stores including titles for which Foundation, HarperCollins and Parasource have had exclusive marketing and distribution rights.

[There are exceptions. I tried to buy The Case for Christ DVD a few weeks ago. The “Canadian stores only” copies were sold out, but the U.S. copies were in-stock, but they were locked out. To make matters worse, the U.S. price was converting to $19.99 Canadian, but the Canadian copies were still at the their original $24.99. On top of that, the U.S. price from Universal Home Video is currently only $9.99 U.S. That means U.S. stores buying from Anchor are overpaying as well. In Canada, we should be paying no more than $13.99.]

Here’s our take on what the February 12th email changes:

  • It announces that Anchor will now provide publisher services (i.e. expedite shipping) for Provident Label Group (CDs and DVDs) resulting in an exclusive distribution deal for Canada. “Provident has shifted the warehousing and distribution of their business over to Anchor in the U.S. As part of this transition, Word Alive will be the exclusive seller of their products in Canada. From an inventory perspective, this is a great advantage as you will now be pulling from the hub where all Provident inventory will be warehoused for North America so the stock levels will be an upgrade from what you’ve seen in the past. The Provident discount structure for Canada will be announced shortly and at this point it looks like we will begin shipping in April, 2019.” Correction [04/Mar/19 – Parasource announcement]: “Parasource will continue to distribute Provident Label Group product in Canada on a non-exclusive basis, as will Word Alive/Anchor Distributors.”
  • It verifies the acquisition of Worthy Publishing by Hachette Nashville (parent of FaithWords) grants Word Alive exclusivity. This was expected.
  • It offers Broadman & Holman books and Bibles at 45%. This is moot, since Parasource matched it.
  • It offers 45% on Baker Book Group (Baker, Spire, Baker Academic, Bethany House, Revell, etc.) Again, this is moot since Parasource currently offers 50% on these.
  • It promotes an extra 2% on Rose Publishing and Hendrickson. Not sure why this is here, as there is no claim of exclusivity in that paragraph. Hendrickson travelled from New England to the diagonal opposite end of the country in its purchase of Rose. I haven’t heard if activities will be consolidated.
  • It promotes an extra 2% on City on a Hill small group resources. There’s a hint of exclusivity here — “Word Alive has been asked to represent this line…” — but it’s not overtly stated.
  • It announces a 20% discount on LifeWay. Many Canadian stores were already doing better than this because of Parasource’s tiered curriculum discounts, and compared with the supposed “list” prices at CBD, the Canadian prices from Parasource on the curriculum seemed to be subsidized.

Back to the introductory paragraph in the email:

It’s been sometime since the Canadian market has seen this type of competition but, in the end, I believe it’s necessary for a healthy industry.

The “I” in the email is Jeremy Braun, Director of Canadian Operations. The truth of the matter is that the trade market for Christian books in Canada is constantly shrinking and desperate times call for desperate actions. It’s a strategic move, but if I worked for Parasource, it would be hard not to see the announcement as a declaration of war.

 

 

 

LifeWay Announces an Unspecified Number of Store Closings

January 18, 2019 1 comment

An unknown number of the 174 LifeWay Christian stores in the U.S. are set to close. On Tuesday employees received an email from company president and CEO Thom Rainer:

…We prayed and hoped that our investments in and commitments to the LifeWay stores would prove fruitful. That just has not been the case. To the contrary, we not only continue to see an erosion in the brick-and-mortar channel, we have seen an accelerated rate of erosion in recent months. It was our hope that greater traffic would result in greater sales, and that with our expense reductions and product cost savings, we would be able to offset sales declines. That hope has not been realized with the declines we have seen since September…

…In simple terms, a strategic shift is required for moving more and more of our resources to a dynamic digital strategy… We will be transitioning many of those resources from our LifeWay stores to digital channels. The good news is that we will be better prepared to meet the future. The challenging news is that some of our stores will have to close…

Stories Wednesday at Baptist News and Thursday at The Christian Post contained the above excerpt and credited both Rainer and director of communications Carol Pipes as saying that the company “will have a smaller footprint for our brick-and-mortar stores.”

LifeWay is the publishing division of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC, the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S.) with both retail stores and the creation of curriculum products for adults and children. It also operates a research company and provides business services to churches. The retail division is notorious for banning authors and musicians who disagree with its ultra-conservative, cessationist, complementarian theological stance.

In recent years the SBC has been concerned about a decline in membership and baptisms. A reasonable estimate is that there are currently about 15 million members.


Appendix: Authors banned at LifeWay, circa April, 2015; authors listed were both not-carried in inventory and not available to order.

Source

James MacDonald to Shutter Walk in the Word

Today at our parent blog Thinking Out Loud we have an unusually high number of publishing related stories on our weekly roundup feature, Wednesday Connect. You need to click through to the highlighted links provided in order to read the stories in full.

📻 After months of personal controversy, James MacDonald surprises his staff with the decision to shutter the broadcasting component (radio and television) of the popular Walk in the Word program. Julie Roys was anonymously sent a recording of the staff meeting.

In a surprise announcement to staff on Wednesday, MacDonald said he had decided to remove Walk in the Word from all “traditional” broadcast mediums and exclusively focus on digital delivery, like podcasts. MacDonald said the reason for the change was primarily pragmatic. “Traditional broadcast is a dying thing,” MacDonald said in a live announcement to staff

📻 …Dee Parsons believes the ‘radio is a dying medium’ argument by MacDonald takes the focus away from the controversial lawsuit and the issues which sparked it. 

BreakingIs James MacDonald prepared to drop the lawsuit?

♦ Also from Julie Roys: Is it just about terminology? Or is there more? Beth Moore’s assertion that “reading the Bible isn’t the same as spending time with God‘ has sparked a firestorm, not dissimilar from Andy Stanley’s late last year.

♦ Changing standards? Are we allowed to use term ‘badass’ in a Christian book title? Eerdman’s did. Burying White Privilege: Resurrecting a Badass Christianity.

♫ The title song from the new Passion album, Follow You Anywhere. There is however a one month gap between the release of the album online (available to consumers now) and the physical CD (early February).

♦ The subject of the book The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven, Alex Malarkey has refiled charges against the publisher, Tyndale House, for “for appropriation, publicity given to private life, and financial exploitation of a person with a disability.”

♦ In the Twitterverse: January is a time for “best books” lists, but this short Twitter thread gives a very short “best Bibles” list with reasons for each of the three choice. (Maybe not the three you’re expecting, but if you’re open to change in a new year, this might help.)

♀ Women’s Workshop: Laurie Pawlik, author of Going Forward When You Can’t Go Back, releasing next week from Bethany House; this article about six female Bible characters who, in different ways, said ‘yes’ to God. Sample: “… I noticed that these 6 female heroes of the Bible—our Biblical sisters—didn’t waste time wrestling with ‘Why me?’ Instead, they threw themselves into ‘Yes, Lord.'”