Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 6, 2006
History book series stalled
Byfield's dream flounders as debt skyrockets
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Ted Byfield's grand plan for a 12-volume series on the 2,000-year history of Christianity has ground to a halt at the year 1100.
The series stalled shortly after the publication of Volume 6 in 2004 and efforts to resurrect the plan have stalled in a battle over copyright.
Christian History Project Limited Partnership, the company producing the series, closed its offices 14 months ago, laid off Byfield and all the editorial staff and stopped producing the series.
Company officials blame low sales, the high cost of telemarketing and collection costs for unpaid books for the project's demise.
"There is nothing in production right now," lamented company spokesperson Gerry Maier. "Unfortunately the production costs were too high and the sales were too low."
Customers refuse to pay
So far nearly 97,000 books have been sold, including 9,000 copies of Volume 6. But many customers accepted books then refused to pay or return them, forcing the company to incur "huge" collection costs. As of June 2004 more than 4,500 books having a value of more than $200,000 were still outstanding.
"We went as far as Volume 6 and ran out of money," Byfield said. "In other words, the cost of selling the books was so high it just ran us broke. We didn't have enough money to carry on."
But Maier said the company remains committed to the project and asked Byfield to set up a non-profit society to produce the rest of the series.
Byfield, the 77-year-old founder of Alberta Report magazine, did set up the company, The Society for the Renewal of Christian Culture, but said he can't proceed unless he is given the copyright to the first six volumes.
"We have been unable to reach an agreement with the old company concerning the transfer of the copyright on the first six volumes to the society which is dedicated to producing the next six volumes," lamented Byfield.
"Why they don't want to transfer the copyright I don't know but I think they feel this thing has a great potential financially if it is ever finished and they want to try and recover some of their investment. And they would do that by keeping the copyright."
Byfield said the new society of which he is president has made various offers to the old company but they have turned those offers down. "We have said we would pay a royalty on every one of the first books sold in perpetuity. But they rejected this. They said they don't want to part with the copyright at this time."
Byfield said the old company offered him a licence to operate but his lawyers recommended him not to proceed on that basis. He said the schematics or blueprints for the last six volumes are complete "but we can't proceed to produce them unless we can solve this copyright problem."
"Of course people want volume seven and we want to deliver it to them but we can't without the copyright on the first six (volumes). Whether people will get Volume 7 depends on what the old company decides to do."
Maier, however, said he hasn't received any offers on the transfer of the copyright. "That's not a true statement," he said Feb. 1. "They haven't made any offers. We offered to let them use all of the material. We offered to help them in any way we can. But they haven't made any offers."
And Maier said his defunct company cannot just go ahead and transfer the copyright to Byfield because it's owned by a lot of people.
"We can't give something away that belongs to other people," he said. "It would be impossible because our people that own it won't give it away for nothing. They spent close to $9 million developing it. Why would they give it away?"
The series The Christians aims to tell the history of Christianity for the last 2,000 years using popular language, beautiful illustrations and imaginative artwork. Volume 7, if it ever sees the light of day, will be on the Crusades.