Evan McCarthy

About Evan McCarthy

I'm currently in charge of Trade Book Sales and Marketing as well as being the Inventory Manager for MennoMedia.

310,777 Different Items

310,777 is the number of items we counted in our warehouses during our physical inventory last week (around 23,000 more assorted items than we had last year).

Harrisonburg Warehouse

Harrisonburg, VA warehouse

For those who have never had the opportunity to participate in a physical inventory count, it usually takes place once a year when you have a small enough business to hand count your inventory and check those numbers against what you have recorded in your system or on your balance sheet. Here at MennoMedia, we typically go through this process once a year at the end of the year counting everything in both our Waterloo and Harrisonburg warehouses.

Waterloo, ON warehouse

Waterloo, ON warehouse

Yes, we do know it is no where near the end of the calendar year, it is even a month off from our fiscal year end in June. We chose to do our inventory earlier this year to avoid trying to do it while shipping both inventory and staff out to Phoenix for convention.

And no, we didn’t actually count every single one of those books or other products. What we actually did was use calculators and practice our basic math skills for most of them.

How many copies of Mennonite Girls Can Cook Celebrations do you think are in the picture below? (Hint: there are 14 per box)

Skid of Celebrations

A big thank you to all of the wonderful people who helped to count all of that inventory and especially to those who helped re-count some of it after we missed some the first time!

Evan McCarthy
Trade Book Sales & Inventory Manager

eBooks update from eVan

I just finally bought my first eBook and subsequently an eReader (though surprisingly not in that order) around a month ago, and while I doubt this will ever fully replace physical books and bookshelves for myself at least, it does seem rather fitting to be reading science fiction on a device instead of paper.

As far as most of us are concerned, eBooks are the first new thing to happen in publishing since we switched from unrolling scrolls to turning pages (imagine the consternation that caused!)

While it may seem like all eBooks are the same on the consumer end, there are three main types of eBook files as well as more select versions for different uses and with different eBook vendors. In all honesty, no one even fully agrees on how to spell eBook (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo all spell it eBook while the Chicago Manual of style says it should be e-book).

Of the different eBook types, there are a few PDF types (which most people should recognize), ePub (the industry standard), and mobi (what Amazon prefers). Needless to say, mobi ends up being the most prevalent on the consumer end since Amazon has the largest share of the eBook market (65% in the US alone).

Our dream at MennoMedia is to eventually make all of the different types of eBooks available from our own webstore so consumers can purchase an eBook once and use it across multiple devices instead of needing to purchase it once for your eReader, once for your smartphone, and another time for your computer when you forgot the other two at home.

The way many eBook retailers (Amazon for instance) currently work is that they don’t technically sell you a copy of the book. Despite all appearances, they sell you the right to access a book, and can and sometimes have withdrawn titles entirely. While it may cost a tad more from us, we hope to sell you the actual files so you can actually own the book just like every time you’ve ever picked up a book in a store.

While some publishers worry about people illegally downloading their titles if given access to the files, we are inclined to think otherwise. Given affordable prices and easy access to our books, we trust our eReaders (referring to the people this time) to purchase our titles rather than illegally download them (though the thought of Martyrs Mirror becoming a popular title to illegally download is rather entertaining).

At the moment, we are still working out the logistics of making books available directly from us so we don’t find ourselves tied up trying to walk well-meaning purchasers through all the steps of getting them onto an e-reader or other devices (it becomes much more difficult to put an eBook on your eReader when you don’t purchase it directly from Amazon, especially for the less tech-savvy).

In the meantime, if you are looking for an ironic way to spend your time some weekend, nothing quite beats the novelty of reading Martyrs Mirror (first published in 1660) as a computer file.

Evan McCarthy
MennoMedia’s eBook guy

What does ★★★★ mean and should I watch/read it?

After spending 15 minutes trying to find a good Bollywood (the Indian version of Hollywood, here is a good example) movie to watch on Netflix the other day, I realized that there is a noticeable problem with five-star rating systems like those used by Netflix, Amazon, and Goodreads.

While a five-star system is certainly helpful when rating a book (I personally tend to be very hesitant about giving out either ★ or ★★★★★ ratings unless I think they are the best or the worst book/movie I have ever experienced), the average ratings that we end up encountering when searching for new entertainment are far from helpful.

Take for example the current 10 most reviewed books on Amazon:

Only one of them has less than 4 stars, the rest of them are all between 4 and 4.5 stars. Based on the stars and that many readers, it appears to be a very safe assumption that any of these books would be good choices to read.

The problem with that assumption is that the average rating doesn’t show the breakdown of the ratings, nor does it include the people who got bored reading a title and never finished, or those readers who didn’t hate it quite enough to write a scathing 1-star review themselves.

What is more interesting and maybe a little more helpful when looking at reviews, is the % of reviewers that gave the book only 1 star. Looking at the same titles a second time, you can see that close to 30% of the people who reviewed the first title rated it only 1 star.

Looking at the # of reviews even closer, we can see from the breakdown of the reviews for that title that most people either really loved it or really hated this title. While this breakdown might tell you that the book is a more controversial one, it still does nothing to tell you whether you yourself will actually enjoy reading the book (not to mention, who wants to take the time to do this for every new book or movie they consider!).

So how can you really tell whether you are actually going to enjoy a book or a movie before you commit to it?

One thing I’ve found that works well on Netflix is comparing the rating to similar movies or movies in the same genre. For example, I know I will enjoy a Bollywood movie with a rating of 3.5 stars or higher and love one with a rating of 4 stars, but if it has less than 3.5 stars it will be one of those ‘meh’ movies I only watched because I was bored. On Amazon, I’ve found that reading some of the “most helpful” reviews can also help give a much better idea of whether or not I will enjoy the book. Granted, you still have to be wary as some of them are less than serious and still won’t be very helpful. Here are some of my personal favorite examples of entertaining (but less than helpful) Amazon reviews: Hutzler 571 Banana SlicerUranium Ore, A Million Random Digits, How to Avoid Huge Ships.

All in all, there is still nothing that beats the recommendation of a good friend or librarian who knows what you enjoy and is willing to recommend something new. Feel free to speak up next time your friend is looking for a movie to watch or a book to read. You just might lead them to their next favorite one!

~Evan McCarthy, Trade Book Sales & Marketing



For helpful reviews from a Mennonite/Anabaptist perspective (mostly movies, but also current music, a few books, some TV) check our sister website, Third Way Cafe. You can also sign up for a free weekly review sent to your email.