December 7, 2019

How Can We Get Gospel Books into the Hands of the Poor?

Here at 20schemes, we’re about seeing gospel churches established among Scotland’s poorest communities. We also want to help those labouring to do the same in poor communities all over the world. One tangible way to further this aim is to get good books into the hands of the poor, as well as those ministering to them. So we’re partnering with 10ofThose to make that happen. To do this, we’re offering a special discount code for readers of 20schemes Equip. Find out how you can access that code below.

I (Ben Hansen) asked Jonathan Carswell, founder and CEO of 10ofThose, a few questions about how 10ofThose got started and how he and his team are working to serve the church.


What is 10ofThose? When and why did you start it?

10ofThose.com is a curated, online bookstore that is all about getting books that point to Jesus read by as many people as possible. We hand-pick everything we sell, picking the best from across the publishers. We then discount these resources to make them more accessible; and we encourage bulk purchases—so the more you buy the cheaper it gets (hence the name)!

10ofThose started in my bedroom about 13 years ago when I was a youth pastor in Northern Ireland. To be honest, it began as a kind of “ministry hobby”. Though I’m dyslexic and find reading hard, I knew the value good books had played in my life. However, I also knew that there were thousands of so-called “Christian” books available out there, but many either weren’t very good, or they were downright harmful. I wanted to create a place where people could buy books in confidence, knowing they had been hand-picked by people they could trust. That’s how 10ofThose was born.

In addition to distributing books, we also publish. We’re proud to work with authors like Tim Keller, Kevin DeYoung, Nancy Guthrie, Helen Roseveare, Ken Taylor, Matt Smethurst, and of course Mez and Sharon from 20Schemes. The book we’ve published that people are probably most familiar with is The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness by Tim Keller. We specialise in short books, especially ones for non-Christians, but we also have a growing range for children too.

Since you started 10ofThose, how has it grown?

God has been very kind, and 10ofThose has grown rapidly. We now sell around 2 million books per year. Just last year, we launched in the U.S. (until then, 10ofThose only existed in the U.K.). After about three years, we began providing pop-up bookstores for churches on Sundays at their services. We found that this was an effective way of getting good books into the hands of everyone in the church. This led to opportunities to provide bookstores for conferences and other events. Today, we have the honour of providing bookstores for around 450 Christian events, conferences, and churches in the U.K. and U.S. every year. It’s hard work, but so worthwhile!

Obviously, 10ofThose is no longer based in my little flat! We have warehouses in the U.K. and U.S., where a team of nearly 40 committed staff have caught the vision of serving the church by getting good resources into people’s hands.

Clearly, you have a passion for getting Christians to read good books. Why is this so vital for the sake of the church?

The world is a noisy place, perhaps more so now than ever before. Sadly, so much of what’s out there isn’t true and takes people away from Jesus. It’s crucial, therefore, that we both know what truth is and how to cling to it. Proverbs says: “Buy the truth and do not sell it—wisdom, instruction and insight as well.” (Prov. 23:23) So we want to help the church have a healthy diet of what is good, wise, and instructive. J. C. Ryle once said: “Value all books in proportion as they are agreeable to scripture. Those that are nearest to it are the best, and those that are farthest from it, the worst.” With so much available today, people often aren’t sure what’s good and what isn’t—so we seek to serve the church by providing a range of resources that you can wholeheartedly trust.

But we want to take it further than getting Christians to read Christ-centred books (as crucial as that is). The majority of our friends, neighbours, colleagues, and family don’t know Jesus as their Saviour. Hell is a real place. But Jesus died—the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring us to God (1 Pet. 3:18). That means we have amazing news to tell people.

Books, booklets, and tracts can play a huge part in sharing this good news. Books can often say things in a way that we can’t (perhaps more direct, or coherent!). Books can often say these things at times we can’t (in a lunch hour, or on a quiet evening in). Books can often say them in places we can’t go (on holiday, or in the bath!).

When we give a book that clearly, winsomely, and engagingly explains the unbelievable news that Jesus died for us—unpacking the nature of repentance, faith, and the forgiveness that Christ offers—then we give a person the chance to understand and respond to the best news in the world. It’s why the team at 10ofThose are always looking for ways to help the church think about how they might use literature evangelistically. A book that points someone to Jesus can radically change their life.

I’ve also heard you, and others (such as Tim Challies), encourage Christians not to buy books from Amazon. How does purchasing from Amazon harm the cause of the gospel?

I get that Amazon is convenient, but . . . and it’s a big but! . . . let’s get to the nub of the matter: Amazon has no concern for your spiritual health—their number one priority is money. Every time you visit their site, you are one click away from buying a book that will do you harm. In fact, they purposefully point you to books that ‘you may also like’, but these books can lead you away from the truth, and Amazon couldn’t care less about that.

In fact, I was speaking with a pastor this morning who was lamenting over the harm Amazon shopping has done to his congregation. And I have a family friend who is now spiritually nowhere having bought and read a “Christian” book from Amazon. Why would we support any business that does such harm to the family of believers? Just because it’s quick? Easy? We need to be better than that.

If that wasn’t enough (and it should be), Amazon harms the Christian family in several other ways too:

  • The financial and logistical demands they put on Christian publishers mean that money, time, and effort are being diverted away from the Lord’s work. There are other companies we could purchase from who use their profits to support Christian mission. So why don’t we?
  • Amazon have an agenda they want to promote. I know of one publisher who was banned from advertising a new book, by a flagship author, because it held to a biblical view of homosexuality and marriage. This is only likely to become more common in the coming days. Let’s support Christian retailers who hold to the truth of the Bible.
  • Because Amazon has much to gain through selling eBooks, they’ve made this a priority. Now, we have nothing against eBooks—in fact we sell them (usually cheaper than they do!). But eBooks harm evangelism and discipleship through literature. You can’t give an eBook to a non-Christian neighbour. You can’t pass on your eBook to a new Christian you want to see grow in their faith. eBooks have their place, but on the whole, they hinder the church’s ministry of literature distribution.

Practically, there are reasons to support places like 10ofThose over places like Amazon:

  • We offer a customer service team you can actually speak to. These are people who know, have read, and believe in the books we are selling. It means we can help you get the right book for the ministry need you have.
  • We offer bulk discount to enable you to get that book you want into the hands of more people. This is on top of our regular discount (and only ever $1 shipping). Amazon is often thought of as ‘cheap’, but 99% of the time they are more expensive. (And their ‘free’ delivery is actually $155+ a year).
  • We offer pop-up bookstores for your church, where we come and provide a bookstore on site. This allows your church family to not only be enthused about good books, but actually touch, look, browse, and buy them.

Given that there are so many Christian books out there, how do you select which books to put on 10ofThose?

For every book we select to sell at 10ofThose, we ask three questions, and we ask them in order. The first is the most important, but they are all significant in the selection process.

1. Does this product and its author hold to the Bible?

This isn’t always as simple to decide as it may seem. Of course, it means we need to know the content of the book, and that takes time. But a particular author may have written some really good stuff in one place while also having written (or endorsed) some really harmful stuff elsewhere. In that instance, we’re likely to reject the book, even if its content is good. We fear the breadcrumb effect. We’re looking for excellent content that is faithful to Scripture. With so much available, we’d rather be too picky than too accepting.

2. Is the book accessible?

This question applies to both the content and how it’s written, but also factors like the cover design, font used, etc., as well as the ease of accessing the product from the publisher or their distribution outlets. We want to reach the masses, so poor distribution won’t work for us.

3. What’s the price?

We will never sell a book that doesn’t pass the first question. That’s the biggest issue for us. Then it must pass the second question. This third question, however, is tricky. Some books are expensive—too expensive, in my opinion. That said, if they are good and there isn’t another like-for-like option, we’ll sell it. However, if there are two like-for-like options that are both equally biblical and accessible, but one is half the price of the other, we’ll sell the one that’s cheaper.

What does success look like for 10ofThose?

I’m not ashamed to say that 10ofThose is a profitable company. We seek to make as much money as we can! However, we aren’t in it for our own gain. We have a motto in the office: “We’re in business to do ministry.” Each year we work out what we need to do in order to sustain the ministry of 10ofThose. Then, we see what surplus we have and use that to provide free resources around the world to people who otherwise couldn’t afford it.

So success for me is seeing that grow, not so that people know about 10ofThose, but that every tribe, tongue, and nation might hear about Jesus. He’s the one that’s precious. He’s the one who saves. He’s the one who brings people to the Father. So like John, success is being able to say, “Look—the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)


10ofThose Discount Code

For those who sign up to the 20schemes Equip content newsletter, we’ll provide a discount code that can be used to get 10% off any order from 10ofThose.com. All you have to do is sign up to receive the email here, and you’ll find the code included in the weekly email alongside all 20schemes Equip content.

In addition to that, 10ofThose will review one book per month, which will be posted here on 20schemesequip.com. We review several books every month here at 20schemes Equip, and we want to help promote the work of 10ofThose because we believe in the mission of distributing good books that point people to Jesus.

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