Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Price Matching - Moral?

Price Matching. Just to be clear I understand this to be an offer by a retailer to sell an item at the lowest price a customer can find it elsewhere. It is an aggressive marketing ploy, if completely successful aiming at the elimination of all competitors. During the early phase the consumer benefits. He is king, and appears to call all the shots, driving down prices until the retailers creak under the strain. Great for him - until one retailer succeeds in out-muscling the others, perhaps putting them out of business in the process. From this point the boot is on the other foot, and over a period of time prices will rise, as the retailer dominates. This is sheer market economics in the raw, at its ugliest - dog eats dog.
I have been pondering the morality of this as it applies to the market in christian books sold by self proclaimed christian companies. Is it fitting that publishers, bookshops and online retailers employ Price Matching? But then, it is a difficult time as the recession bites and the waterhole is shrinking. Temptation abounds.
Sometimes it is consumers who provoke a price war. Last week we had someone ring up to ask "Do you do price matching?" She had located a book cheaply elsewhere and wondered if we could or would sell it for the same. Now we were not going to play the rival Supermarkets game. But was that a christian attitude for her to have? I freely confess that I myself shop around and look at all the options and deals on and offline when buying goods, so am I just being hypocritical here? However is it not one thing to set your stall out and sell at what you can afford (maximising customer service and other enrichments as well) thus creating healthy competition, and another to advertise Price Matching? I feel that oversteps the mark. Managing a Christian Bookshop, I want to earn a living, but I want others in the same field to as well. Otherwise Biblical principles regarding love to our neighbour are violated. Price Matching discredits christian retailing, and it is shameful for sober christian people to provoke it. Feedback wanted please!

Monday, 18 July 2011

Gleanings From The Past

This is the name of a 3 book series now republished in paperback by Scripture Truth Publications, and new to our bookshelves. The editor was Hamilton Smith, not a name widely known outside Brethren circles. His desire was to bring older classic writers 'back to life' by taking their work and producing a cut down form of them, more accessible to the average reader. Now, considering that he did this around the turn of the First World War, he by far anticipated later efforts like Banner of Truth's Puritan Paperbacks, and Grace Publications' Great Christian Classics series. But there is also one very different and unusual way in which he set about his task. He took material and arranged it by subject. Thus there might be sections entitled 'Afflictions,' 'Contentment,' 'Thanksgiving,' 'Warning,' 'Sin and Guilt,' 'Faith,' etc as well as more closely specific ones like 'Giving,' and 'Reading.' This all has the advantage of encouraging people to dip in and be benefited without being baffled or deterred by the typical Puritan writing structure. Of course it does have the downside of shredding and re-setting, which can put material out of context. I have to say, particularly in the case of Thomas Watson, it would have been much more informative to have cited the source of each dollop. It works more easily with Rutherford's sublime letters, although it will not be pleasing to the purist. But that's not the point! Vol 2 on Gurnall is actually the famousm 'Christian in Complete Armour,' albeit given this thematic treatment. I feel these books do have their place and usefulness. A good point is that the authors are quoted without being tampered with - just some obsolete words are explained, and also the Authorised Version is used.
Try them for £6 each, and let me know what you think of the Hamilton Smith treatment!

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Recommended Devotional Readings

Reformation Heritage Books are to be congratulated for being constrained to reprint this classic, after a year of it being unavailable.  Robert Hawker (1753-1827) was vicar of Charles in Plymouth, and conscious of the poor amongst his congregation, published these meditations for them on texts of scripture in small, affordable penny portions.  The eventual result was this Christ-centred devotional, which still satisfies the 'poor in spirit, who are rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom.'  I am really pleased to have got a good stock of these on board - possibly the first in the UK to have done so?!  Our price is £24.95, which is not bad for a chunky hardback book (730 devotions for the whole year) now with a stylish new cover design.  Joel R Beeke has written a very informative and warm introduction to Dr Hawker and his ministry, which he feels has been 'largely overlooked by modern scholarship.'  May these daily doses of free grace doctrine be to the benefit of many readers.  I'm using them at the moment and I would encourage you to do so too.  This isn't a sales plug - beg, borrow or buy a copy from whoever you can!  You won't regret it.
'The Poor Man's Morning and Evening Portions' by Robert Hawker DD.