“The Year of ePub” is a good title for this past year at the RFPA. Were you to peruse the minutes of the year as I did prior to writing this report, it would become obvious why that title is so fitting: discussion and decisions by our standing committees and the RFPA Board were dominated by doing what needed to be done to make the RFPA compatible with the electronic age in which we live.
This work has not gone unnoticed. In fact, in response to making our first eBook (Federal Vision) available, a considerate supporter sent us this email: “I know you guys have been busy on all of the projects going on, but it is exciting to see the progress being made. Keep up the good work.” In our attempt to keep up that good work we have now published eight books in eBook format and are in the process of doing the same with many others in our catalog. In fact, the eBook format is so cost effective that we are in the process of selecting books that are available in the public domain and making them available as eBooks. The Commentary on the Church Order by Van Dellen and Monsma is one example. By the way, if you are a present owner of a hard copy of this commentary, you might find it advantageous to obtain the eBook format also because of the search capabilities that will be available.
Of course, it is one thing to make RFPA publications available in ePub format, the question is, are they being purchased? The degree to which the ePub format will be in demand by those who purchase our publications will take some time to determine. We have, to date, sold 30 books in ePub format. Some of these have gone to places as far away as the United Kingdom. In our age of the need for instant gratification, ePub is the way to go, for it has the distinct advantage of instant availability of our electronically published materials to anyone in the world who has access to the Internet.
While all of this ePub stuff is interesting and exciting, it has generated a considerable amount of work for the RFPA Board and its support staff. Numerous questions have been addressed: How much should we charge for eBooks compared to hard copies? What if someone wants both, do we give them a discount? May Book Club members choose one or the other? Should we sell eBooks from our own website, through Amazon (and others), or both? Should we protect our ePub selections from piracy, and if so, how? No doubt there will be countless other questions to answer in the future. Many of us on the Board lack the background knowledge needed to address some of these kinds of questions; consequently, we are thankful for knowledgeable consultants on whom we can rely for assistance in these matters. We are thankful too for Paula Kamps, Bethany Kingma, Evelyn Langerak, and Tim Pipe, who have been of inestimable value in providing the Board with the information required to make informed decisions. Furthermore, they have been faithful in the work of carrying out board decisions as they function in the day-to-day activities of the RFPA. Pray for them and the Board as we go forward with this new and exciting work. Pray that the Lord of the harvest be pleased to use this labor as an effective witness to the truth and as a means to expose the lie, which is, after all, our purpose.
But there is more than ePub going on at the RFPA. Four new hard copy books were published this past year (all are currently available as eBooks): Federal Vision: Heresy at the Root; Covenant and Election; Defense of the Church Institute: Response to the Critics of Bound to Join; and Communion with God. While it is to be expected that not all responses to our publications will be favorable, a Book Club member from Maine gave this heartwarming response to Communion with God: “This is a great book, as good as it gets in devotional literature . . . . My plea . . . please confirm that you will continue to release further volumes of Hoeksema’s incredible treasury of writings . . . . What a great read, a wonderful way to end my day, in preparation for sleep.” Thanks to this reader and countless others, book sales this past year have exceeded our ten-year average by about $30,000.
This Maine reader and many others will be happy to know that another book of Hoeksema’s devotionals is currently in the RFPA’s plans for the future. Other books likely to be published during the 2012-13 fiscal year include The Pilgrim’s Manual, by Prof. Hanko; Behold the Beauty volume 2, by Connie Meyer (not to be a Book Club publication); Struggle, Schism, and Salvation: The History and Doctrine of the Declaration of Principles, by Prof. Engelsma; and The Rock Whence We Are Hewn, edited by Prof. Engelsma.
In addition to ePub and the publishing of hard copy books, the RFPA has been busy this past year implementing its “Five Year Plan.” Those with good memories will recall the mention of this in last year’s annual report and in this past spring’s edition of the RFPA Update. This plan was devised by the RFPA Board as a way to put to use a sizable gift from a supporter who included the RFPA in his estate. Parts of the plan that have been implemented include the following. 1) We are in regular consultation with experts in all aspects of Christian book publishing. 2) We are utilizing the services of a marketing consultant to assist us in the day-to-day efforts of sales and marketing. 3) The media capability for the RFPA board and conference room has been upgraded. We have already experienced many benefits of this upgrade, including teleconferencing with prospective writers. 4) We have purchased and are currently using office equipment that has expanded our publishing capabilities. 5) A burglar alarm system has been installed to assist in protecting our building and contents. 6) Translation work is being done from Dutch to English on commentaries of two of our minor creeds, the Baptism Form and the Lord’s Supper Form. 7) As noted earlier, we now have in place what it takes to publish and distribute RFPA materials in electronic format. 8) The services of financial institutions have been secured to assist us in making wise financial decisions. 9) The RFPA website has been redesigned to make it professional in appearance, user friendly, and helpful for the purpose of reaching a broader audience for our publications. (If you haven’t done so already, you might want to check out our website and see if you agree with a supporter from Washington who took the time to write: “Your website and communication looks ever so much more professional and interesting than it did just a few short years ago.” And while you are at it, take the time to listen to a few of the sermon audio selections now available there).
Without a doubt the lion’s share of the RFPA Board’s work involves the publication of books, many of which have had their beginning as series articles in our Standard Bearer. But since the content of the Standard Bearer is the responsibility of the Editorial Staff, the RFPA board’s work with respect to its publication is limited. Nevertheless, how grateful we are for the writers whose efforts are responsible for the Standard Bearer’s consistent witness to the truth of the Reformed faith. Thankful we are too for the labors of Don and Judi Doezema who for more than 25 years now have seen to its editing and typesetting.
While we are on the subject of the Standard Bearer, are you aware that eSubscriptions to the SB are now available? Also, are you aware that the Standard Bearer can be received in audio format? Southeast PRC makes this available at their website. This service can also be accessed at the RFPA website. A goodly number of these files are sent out on cassette to vision-impaired individuals.
Reader reactions to the SB like the one from New Jersey who addressed the envelope containing his payment: “The Standard Bearer: Best in the Land” are a great source of encouragement. Without a doubt, to be deserving of the label “Best in the Land” we are dependent on faithful writers and diligent personnel ready and willing to perform the day-to-day responsibilities of our publishing efforts. But neither do we forget the importance of our RFPA members, our 2,209 Standard Bearer subscribers and our 1,220 Book Club members. I should mention that the board is committed to obtaining significant growth in each of these areas in the coming year. Your help is crucial for this is to be realized. We ask that you actively promote our publications and cause. Accept the RFPA challenge to enlist at least one new SB subscriber and one new Book Club member by next year’s annual meeting. The RFPA Board welcomes your suggestions to further our cause.
Nevertheless we understand that our best efforts are totally dependent on the Lord’s blessing. As we look back over the past year, we cannot help but conclude that the Lord is indeed blessing this work. Thanks be to Him!