Monday, July 28, 2008

More free excerpts from Andy Crouch's Culture Making

A quick post just to say that three more chapters of Andy Crouch's book Culture Making are now available for free online. In addition to the intro and chs. 1-2 posted earlier, together that's the first third of the book, about a hundred pages. Free!

Also, Andy's full-blown site for Culture Making has been launched. It's all about "celebrating and informing those who cultivate and create." Not only does it now host the archive of all of Andy's past articles, it's also his blog and commentary pointing folks to culturally creative and significant goings-on from all corners. Andy is one of the smartest cultural observers and thinkers in the Christian world today, so this site gives you something of a current newsfeed of the things that Andy's reading and reflecting on.

It's exciting for me as Andy's editor to see Culture Making get launched into the world. The editor's role is something of a midwife or delivery doctor, and we celebrate new books as we do new babies. At IVP's author dinner at ICRS, Andy confessed his struggles in the writing of the book, that for the first year he basically failed to write much of anything. My rejoinder after his comments was that I'm glad he took four years to write the book rather than crash it out in nine months, because the end result is a far better book, with greater maturity of thought and depth of insight.

And I'm pleased to see initial buzz about the book. David Neff, editor-in-chief of Christianity Today, just preached (and posted) a sermon that references Andy's book. Helen Lee also just blogged about the book. And those two items are just what popped up in my Facebook newsfeed this morning. A quick Google blog search turns up more items, including this two-part interview with Andy now available online and a bunch of other things I don't have time to look at right now.

Just to make a quick connection to suburban stuff - as I mention in my book, suburbia tends to be a consumer culture. It's a vast overgeneralization, but historically rural areas tended to be primarily agricultural and urban areas tended to be primarily industrial, but suburbia has been primarily commercial. We are consumers, not producers. And I quoted Andy's ideas in my book because he points to the significance of cultural creativity as a way to counteract consumer culture. We do not change culture by consuming it or critiquing it. We change culture by creating more culture. So if suburban Christians want to seek the welfare of their suburbs, one of the best things we can do is to practice cultural creativity and make culture. (It's no surprise to me that the items listed in Jeremiah 29 about seeking the welfare of the city are things like building houses and planting gardens. In other words, being culturally generative and creative.) Suburban churches can create alternate countercultures that show suburbia another way to live.

At any rate, I'm thrilled that folks like Tim Keller are calling Culture Making one of the most-anticipated books of the year. If you've not read it yet, check out the free preview samples and order your copy now. It's a must-read book that Christians will be talking about this year.


Unknown said...

Hey Al--

Your link to Helen was broken: seems to work.

Always excited to see female bloggers talking about interesting things, so thanks for including that!

Hey and congrats on the book! I hope it has fabulous sales and changes the world. I'm pretty excited about it. :o)

Silliest question before I try to get my hands on a copy:
When I order things I'm usually really intentional about who I order from either to
1) increase the profit of somebody I like
2) try to influence a certain store to feature a product because they see sales are good.

Ex: Whenever I'm buying a TNIV Bible I try to order it from a conservative-leaning but more open than Lifeway Christian bookstore in hopes that maybe they'll start stocking it regularly. Goofy, perhaps, but that's my logic.

So my question (finally): What do you think is the most effective with IVP? I usually order directly from you so you get to hold on to more of the purchase price, but if by shopping elsewhere I could encourage other stores (Chr, B&N, otherwise) to to stock more IVP, I'd do that, because I'd love to see you snag more shelf space to hopefully mean more people end up with your books in their hands. Do you think it makes much of a difference either way I go?

A weirdo, but to me very important, decision...

Unknown said...

Also of note:
I just ran a search for "culture" in books (only- as oppose to kitchen appliances or CDs) and Andy's book comes up #15 (with search based on "relevance"-- pretty sweet, I think.

Al Hsu said...

Thanks, Ashleigh. I fixed the link.

And as far as ordering the book strategically, hmmm, I don't know. We're always happy for you to order directly from us, but we're also happy for you to support your local mom-and-pop bricks-and-mortar Christian or independent bookstore as well. Sometimes strategic ordering can make more of a difference if you and a bunch of friends go in together to buy multiple quantities from a local retailer, if there's a particular store you want to give business to or you want to "get the message" that they should stock IVP books.

With Andy's book, I'm not too worried because I'm pretty sure it will have decent sell-through in multiple channels. I just happened to look at its inventory numbers at Ingram (the main general market distributor) and it's got big quantities (hundreds) in all of their warehouses. So if you wanted to help general market sell-through, go to an independent bookstore and have them order it for you.

Unknown said...

Since there's no clear formula, I suppose ordering IVP will be as big a decision as always. ;o) That's ok. Gives me something to ponder while I'm at work, I suppose...

Just curious: no mention of big chain bookstores. I'm not surprised that they're not your favorite, but still, I'm curious-- how much attention does IVP pay B&N and Borders vs independent stores? Is it more of a preference thing or a money thing? And do you do significantly more business with independent Christian stores than Family Christian, etc.?

I've not been to any Christian bookstores in the Chapel Hill area, but I used to go in Greensboro, and I don't even know if we HAD any non-chain stores. (I think one, Logos, was maybe part of a smaller chain, and probably not incidentally, it was my favorite.)

Al Hsu said...

Big chain bookstores ... well, for a few years we were very happy with Borders's religion section, because they gave quite a bit of shelf space to serious books on Christianity and church history. They'd carry our Jesus studies books by Ben Witherington, N. T. Wright, others. But apparently Borders has been having financial challenges and no longer carry as deep a list. And I think their buyers might have changed, too. Not sure about that. At any rate, we no longer have as much exposure on their shelves.

As for Barnes & Noble, a few weeks ago a bunch of us went to a local B&N for a booksigning for my colleague Dave Zimmerman's Deliver Us from Me-Ville. And all the IVP folks went to the religion section to see what they had. We found maybe four books by IVP - our biggest name authors, like Bill Hybels's Too Busy Not to Pray, J. I. Packer's Knowing God, Eugene Peterson's A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. I suppose that's better than no books by us, but still, it was kind of depressing. We looked at the shelves and commented, "Huh, it's amazing that any of us have jobs, that any of our books sell at all."

Of course, what makes up the difference is Amazon and Yay for the long tail! As bricks & mortar store sales have decreased, online sales have increased. I just saw this morning that Amazon bought 39 copies of The Suburban Christian yesterday. Which is great. But it's also sad that a lot of mom-and-pop stores are struggling and dying because they can't compete with Amazon's discounts and free shipping. So I try to encourage folks to buy at their local mom-and-pop stores when they can, and to get to know the owners and build real embodied relationships there.

You asked how much attention IVP pays to the big chains. We have sales reps that call on all of them, but it's often more of a question of how much attention they pay to us. If we have a bigger name author, like the upcoming Shane Claiborne book, they'll be happy to stock it because they know it'll sell. But the average unknown midlist IVP author, not so much. Out of necessity in this economy, we pretty much work with all channels and markets - Christian retailers, independents, big box, online sellers, special markets, organizations, denominations, academic stores, direct-to-consumer, book clubs, etc. And it's often a matter of figuring out which books work for which markets and channels. As much as we'd love to see all our books in all channels, that's just not the case. I don't have access to actual sales data, but I know we do a good amount of business with Family and other Christian chains. But these days Amazon is our #2 customer. (#1 is Spring Arbor/Ingram, the distributor, which sources all kinds of stores, Christian and independent alike.)

Logos Bookstores are great! Did you know that Logos Bookstores used to be owned and run by IVP/IVCF? You can read about it in the IVP history Heart. Soul. Mind. Strength, and I think it might be mentioned in For Christ and the University too. Can't remember now. InterVarsity sold the stores off years ago so they could be their own thing. Our associate publisher/director of sales and marketing, Jeff Crosby, used to own and run a Logos Bookstore in Indiana for some 13 years and was the director of the Logos Bookstore Association. We heart Logos Bookstores!

Unknown said...

B&N's selection, quite frankly, really sucks. It always makes me sad, and certain much less deserving publishers that shall not be named get MUCH more shelf space. So much many "Christianity" sections end up having to be renamed "Christian Inspiration." Which usually, but not always, means "The Fluffy Stuff."

I HAD heard that about Logos, but I know few of the details. I really need to read HMSS, but I do think it was mentioned in Christ & Univ. That's where I first heard it.