The Story Behind the Quiet Bestseller

For more than two generations, Quiet Time has been introducing readers to one of the most basic spiritual disciplines of the Christian life—spending some time alone with God each day. Originally the piece was written by several campus staff members (called traveling secretaries) of the British Inter-Varsity movement.
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The Quiet Bestseller

The InterVarsity Press publication that has perhaps done more to shape the spiritual life of readers than anything else we’ve produced was actually one of our first. Quiet Time is a quiet classic that since 1945 has sold a million copies around the world, introducing readers in simple direct language to the daily discipline of spending time alone with God. There, as we listen in the calm, we hear him not in loud thunderbolts but in a still, soft voice.
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He Was No “Uncle Tom”

Not only does this year mark the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the American Civil War, but this month marks the 200th birthday of the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe. The book was the biggest hardback bestseller in American history and drew such a dramatic reaction across the country that Abraham Lincoln said, famously, on meeting the author, “So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war.”

I took the opportunity to observe this bicentennial by reading the book that caused such a stir at the time but has endured much distortion and derision since.
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Merchants of Culture 4: Publishers in the Middle

It’s easy to see the advantages of being a large publisher, as John B. Thompson chronicles in Merchants of Culture. (The first in this series is here.) It’s the economies of scale—consolidating business operations, having the size to field a sales team, having clout with suppliers and retailers, accumulating cash flow for big projects, having the ability to absorb losses from a big investment that goes bust, and being able to invest in IT.

And on reflection, we can see that despite the vulnerabilities of being small, there are advantages too.
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Merchants of Culture 3: Making Available vs. Making Known

While familiar territory for some, the current state of publishing and how we got here is skillfully summarized by John B. Thompson in Merchants of Culture. (See my first in this series here.) He covers the rise of agents, the rise of superstores, the rise of “mass-market” hardbacks, the rise of publishing conglomerates, the rise of sales to big box stores, the rise of advances, the rise of Amazon, the rise of the number of books published, the rise of ebooks.

At the same time this story also includes the demise of independent stores, the demise of superstores, the demise of literacy.
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Merchants of Culture 2: Symbolic Capital

While John Thompson’s Merchants of Culture focuses on big trade publishing in the United States and United Kingdom, it provides helpful insight into a wider range of publishing endeavors. (See my first blog in the series here.) He begins with how publishers get things done. And all publishers, regardless of size or category, accomplish their work with five key resources:
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Merchants of Culture 1: Merchant of Candor

When reading John Thompson’s Merchants of Culture: The Publishing Business in the Twenty-First Century, those of us who have been in publishing thirty-five or twenty-five or even fifteen years will feel like we are reading our own biography. This is history we’ve lived through and a present reality we know all too well.
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To Change the World 5: Seeking the Common Good

James Davison Hunter tells us, in To Change the World, that the political frameworks of the Christian Right, the Christian Left and the neo-Anabaptists are inherently defective. Is there another option besides these three, which Hunter reframes as “defense against,” “relevance to” and “purity from” the culture? What’s his solution?
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To Change the World 1: The Limits of Popular Opinion

Evangelicals want to change the world. So do Episcopalians, Lutherans and Catholics. They all fall in the tradition of Thomas Jefferson, who thought that if we can educate people—inform them, change their minds—then freedom will flourish and good will prevail.

They’re all wrong. James Davison Hunter says he knows why in To Change the World.
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