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Category : CBA
Just got back from a week at ICRS (the International Christian Retailing Show) in Orlando. Some notes…
1. Attendance: In a word, awful. One insider told me this is the lowest attendance they’ve had at a CBA convention since the 1980’s. There were only about 7000 people at the show. Ouch.
2. The Bad News: There wasn’t much buzz at the show. Zondervan introduced an interesting idea (more on that later), but the whole event had a bit of a gloomy atmosphere. As you know, Thomas Nelson, the largest Christian publisher on the planet, pulled out of the show. That helped create a sinking ship mentality. My guess is that more publishers are going to follow their lead (more on THAT later as well). In addition, they’re going to have to cut the whole thing back. NOBODY was there on Thursday — you could have whacked golf balls down the aisles and not hit anyone. So, overall, a bit of a negative vibe at this convention.
3. The Good News: On the flip side, book publishing is alive and well. Even though there was a bit of a cloud over the show, a Bowker study revealed that there were more Christian books produced and sold last year than ever before. I figure that’s good news to everyone who works in the industry. And I’d argue there were some excellent new books unveiled. (I loved getting a copy of Baker’s UNCHRISTIAN, and Jossey-Bass had new books from both Doug Pagitt and Tony Jones.) So we can all stop whining. There’s plenty of good things going on.
4. The Floor: It was nice to have all the book publishers close to each other on the floor again. And many of the art-and-trinket sellers weren’t there — in fact, I’d say they took up half the space they used to inhabit. Real shrinkage among the non-book types.
5. The Crazies: Many of the
Well, I’m now 50. Older and wiser (hopefully). Please let me offer one short rumination…
Recently I made some comments about Mike Hyatt, the Thomas Nelson decisions, and the direction of CBA. That caused a couple people to write and ask me, "Why are you down on CBA?"
My response: "I’m not. Not at all." But their questions got me to thinking some things…
First, I love Christian books. My life has been changed by books I’ve read — I can point to some titles (The Ragamuffin Gospel, In the Name of Jesus, etc) and say with all honesty, "My life was never the same after having read that book." It’s the ministry a book can have in the life of a person that keeps me excited about words. When I read, I learn, and that changes me. And I’m one of those ignorant types who needs to learn a lot, since I’ve got a lot of changing to do.
Second, I love CBA and the things associated with it — authors, publishers, booksellers. Honest. I’ve been part of CBA for more than 20 years. I feel as though I know it inside and out — both its strengths and its weaknesses. I will sometimes poke fun at the stupid stuff (Armor of God pajamas and Standing on the Promises Insoles, for example), but let’s face it — those things are funny. Still, I don’t want anyone reading this blog and coming away from it thinking that I’m not supportive of great Christian books. I always want to remember the people I work with are trying to change the world for good.
Third, this is the Golden Age of Christian publishing. There have never been so many good books, done with such quality, and at such an affordable price. Some day we will all look back on this time as an incredibly rich season of Christian writing.
What a week for Mike Hyatt, the Prez at Thomas Nelson Publishers. Early last week he announced that TN would pull out of ICRS (the big CBA book show) in Orlando this July. Then he announced that TN would also pull out of BEA (the big ABA book show for the general market). A day later, he let people know that TN was cutting 10% of its workforce. And in his blog the next day, he dropped his biggest bombshell: that TN was releasing too many under-performing books, and they planned to "eliminate a significant portion of our workload" by significantly cutting their list.
Wow. That is one lousy week.
Or maybe it turns out to be a great week — who knows? It’s got to be tough to face all these problems, and even tougher to blog about them. Mr. Hyatt keeps a blog (michaelhyatt.blogs.com), in which he reveals some of his thinking. It can be an interesting read, and kudos to the guy for being willing to share some of his thinking. He’s got to be the highest-ranking person in all of publishing to offer thoughts in that format, and he took some hits for doing so — some people posted very personal attacks on the guy.
Um… Look, let me get this out right at the start: Mike and I are acquaintances, not friends. He is always very pleasant to me, but we’re not hanging out together in Nashville or going to get a drink with one another at CBA. I don’t feel sorry for him — when he signed on to be the Boss, he had to know he’d face some tough decisions. You figure they pay him the big bucks to make these types of tough decisions. But I gained a huge measure of respect for the way he handled this. I was a publisher once (though not in a position of authority
I’m just back from the giant Christian book show (formerly the "Christian Booksellers Association," now the "International Christian Retailers Show"). It was light on books this year, and heavy on Christian Crud (from my point of view). It was also light on people and sales, apparently, so they say big changes are due.
A few years ago, the people who run the show decided to stick all the publishers in the same section, so that it was easy to see who the actual book publishers were and what they were selling. That notion is now out the window, as publishers on the convention floor were dispersed so much it sometimes appeared as though I was at a gift show instead of a convention whose main profits are derived from the printed word. You had to hunt to find actual books this year, buried amidst the ties, jewelry, art, choir robes, and footwear (more on that in a moment).
Word is the publishers are sick of this trend, and are planning to stage their own book show next year — which will be interesting, but may not be successful. If you’re running a small Christian gift shop, do you pay to attend two conventions? Probably not, so you have to decide if you’ll go see books, or keep visiting the old standard convention where you’re sure to run into longtime friends as well as be able to actually handle the clothing and art (since it’s harder to see those on a computer screen). You figure the book reps will still come calling, and the catalogs will still show up in the mail. A tough call.
On top of that, CBA has announced the death of their mid-winter show, which was called "CBA Expo" (also known as "The Frozen Wasteland," since it attracted almost no one but made up for it by offering attendees such fun-filled attractions as "The Frigid, Ice-covered