What to do about Deseret Book?

August 26, 2008 | 48 comments
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For the past decade, I’ve suggested that Deseret Book is one of the significant impediments to the growth of Mormon culture outside those elements involving worship. LDS books, music, film, art and other cultural products, especially innovative ones, are hampered by Deseret Book’s size, focus and control of the market for LDS materials.

What can we do about it?

I won’t recount my logic in those three posts, so I encourage those interested to read them. My logic here depends on the analysis I gave there. In the last of these three posts, I discussed a few options that the Church could consider that would resolve the problem of Deseret Book’s dominance of the LDS market: splitting Deseret Book into a publisher and a retail chain, and then divesting the retail operations like the Church divested of its hospitals in the early 1970s.

Before I continue, I should make it clear that I’m not suggesting that any grave errors in judgment have been made. The problem that Deseret Book has become developed over time, in spite of the fact that its managers, board of directors and so on have made decisions that most people would agree are in the best interest of the company and of the Church. It is the collective effect of these decisions and other circumstances that created the problem.

Of course, this means it is not likely that the Church or its for-profit arm, Deseret Management, will see a need to make changes any time soon. I suspect that they don’t see a problem. But regardless of whether or not they see it, the problem exists. Deseret Book has become too dominant, tries to fill too many roles, and exerts too much control over others in the market.

Short of changes to Deseret Book made by the Church, I think there are only a few things that can be done outside of Deseret Book. These things differ according to who can do them.

For its book publisher competitors, almost any growth is good growth, but growth that reduces the publisher’s dependence on Deseret Book’s retail stores is the most helpful. Its almost always in the publisher’s best interest to diversify where its goods are sold, but I’ve certainly seen some publishers whose policies (minimum order quantities and minimum annual purchases, for example) discourage resellers that are just starting out.

Publishers might also gain from titles and products that are significantly different from what Deseret Book publishes. The most significant growth comes from finding a strong-selling title or product that hasn’t existed in the market before. We’ve seen these before, usually from Deseret Book’s competitors, and Deseret Book has eventually acquired the companies that introduced these products.

Deseret Book’s retail competitors have perhaps the most difficult challenge. Retail sales in brick and mortar stores can be very difficult, since LDS stores not only compete with Deseret Books stores and its Internet presence, but also with Amazon.com and even some mainstream stores, in the Intermountain West. The Internet may actually be one of the best places to compete, given how poor Deseret Book’s website is in comparison with Amazon.com and many other Internet bookstores. BUT, since non-LDS Internet bookstores do a poor job of identifying what items are LDS, an LDS Internet bookstore can provide what neither Deseret Book nor Amazon.com does.

Another area where retail stores may be able to grow is in areas not served by current LDS stores. Deseret Book doesn’t have a single store east of the Mississippi, where a few dozen scattered stores serve some areas and many areas there have no LDS store at all. Outside the U.S. may be problematic, but I believe there are opportunities there also.

This is all well and good for those in the industry. But what about consumers. If we as consumers are frustrated with Deseret Book, what should we do?

I’m sure some readers will say that if I feel this way I should “vote with my feet,” and simply not purchase from Deseret Book anymore. I wish it were that simple. First, books are not widgets. While most widgets are exactly the same as any other widget, one title is almost never interchangeable with another. Even with the simplest of genre series books (think Hardy Boys mysteries, for example), while the plot, characters, and writing style are almost identical, each book in the series is different. I may say that if you’ve read one, you have read them all, but there are people who have read, and purchased, them all, and find differences in each book in the series.

Because each title is different from every other title, even if they are on the same subject, it is sometimes not possible to substitute one book for another. Deseret Book’s position as the publisher for the General Authorities makes this even more an issue. An Apostle’s book usually can’t be replaced by someone else’s book on the same subject, even if the other book is better!

Another difficulty consumers will have “voting with their feet” is that Deseret Book’s position is so dominant. Yes you can avoid shopping in a Deseret Book store or at Deseretbook.com, but you may end up purchasing a book labeled as “Shadow Mountain,” “Eagle Gate,” “Bookcraft,” “Covenant,” or another Deseret Book imprint, not realizing that it is a book published by part of Deseret Book. And even if you avoid those books, Deseret Book is also a distributor for some publishers, so purchasing one of their books will also add to Deseret Book’s bottom line.

As a result, consumers have a hard time “voting with their feet” on Deseret Book. There simply isn’t always a good alternative to Deseret Book. And unlike many causes, this one simply isn’t important enough to justify the kind of all-out boycott seen in, say, civil rights campaigns.

Of course, where possible consumers should shift their buying to alternatives. Buying through your local non-Deseret Book LDS store is always a good idea, and even more so, if you live outside of the Intermountain West. Even buying directly from the publisher is better than buying the same book from Deseret Book.

Unfortunately, not all ways of avoiding Deseret Book are equally useful. Finding and purchasing books on Amazon.com instead of Deseret Book may help — but it doesn’t help build competitors to Deseret Book in the LDS market. If your purchases of LDS books decline because of avoiding Deseret Book, then you aren’t really helping create competition, you are actually making it harder for the whole LDS market.

The idea behind all this isn’t to put Deseret Book out-of-business or even hurt the company. Far from it. We would be worse off without Deseret Book. The purpose here is to put more balance among those that create, distribute and sell LDS books and other products — to give Deseret Book more competition so that it strives to do better and serve more LDS Church members.

I’m not entirely sure that all this will eventually give the LDS market more balance. I hope it will. But finding a better balance depends on Church members and those businesses in the market putting more effort into creating, finding and even providing better alternatives.

I hope we soon see what those alternatives are.

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48 Responses to What to do about Deseret Book?

  1. Clark on August 26, 2008 at 10:46 pm

    I think brick and mortar stores could compete had they better websites. I’d note that Amazon proper has been pretty poor about getting some books. Both from Koffard as well as from academic presses like University of Illinois. (This is surprising to me I must say since I’d think for any publisher getting on to Amazon would be a must)

    However some brick and mortar stores can work through Amazon via it’s affiliate program. When you search for a book it’ll show if other retailers have it. This is great if Amazon doesn’t have it. For instance I recently picked up Blake Ostler’s third volume that I’d been trying to buy from Amazon for months. Amazon had a connection with Confetti Books in Springville and presto chango I had the book.

    The problem, of course, is that no one would be apt to buy from these smaller vendors if Amazon had it in stock.

  2. Eric Russell on August 26, 2008 at 11:06 pm

    Yeah, an online store that was well stocked, well advertised, user-friendly and had lower prices could do it. An LDS Amazon.

  3. MoJo on August 26, 2008 at 11:57 pm

    An LDS Amazon.

    Heh.

  4. Kent Larsen on August 27, 2008 at 12:20 am

    Clark (1) wrote:

    “I’d note that Amazon proper has been pretty poor about getting some books. Both from Koffard as well as from academic presses like University of Illinois. (This is surprising to me I must say since I’d think for any publisher getting on to Amazon would be a must)”

    Working with Amazon is pretty much required, but most publishers do it through either Ingram Book Company or Baker & Taylor, the two largest distributors (Amazon only buys directly from the largest publishers). B&T is easier to get set up with, and is in some ways more flexible. More university presses and academic houses, like Kofford, use B&T. But B&T is also slower, and probably stocks less inventory, instead waiting for stock from the publisher in order to ship books. I don’t know for sure if this explains what you are seeing, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

    However some brick and mortar stores can work through Amazon via it’s affiliate program. When you search for a book it’ll show if other retailers have it. This is great if Amazon doesn’t have it. For instance I recently picked up Blake Ostler’s third volume that I’d been trying to buy from Amazon for months. Amazon had a connection with Confetti Books in Springville and presto chango I had the book.

    Retailers like Confetti Books aren’t necessarily working directly with Amazon. Many, if not most of these retailers are working through the used book networks like Alibris and Abebooks. Bookstores that list their inventory with these services can have that inventory also appear on Amazon.com.

    FWIW, even if Amazon doesn’t have a book in stock, in my experience some users still shy away from purchasing in this way.

  5. Randy B. on August 27, 2008 at 8:50 am

    Clark: “I’d note that Amazon proper has been pretty poor about getting some books. Both from Koffard as well as from academic presses like University of Illinois.”

    I’ve not noticed this as to UIP, though I have for others (including Kofford and some Signature titles). What books from UIP have you had problems getting from Amazon?

  6. Kristine on August 27, 2008 at 10:08 am

    I’m in favor of any glitch in the publishing industry that results in Clark having to wait for books, giving the rest of us time to catch up a little ;) If only we could selectively frustrate Nate’s & Kaimi’s and Rosalynde’s book-buying as well…

  7. Matt Rasmussen on August 27, 2008 at 10:28 am

    While I agree that the economic theory of monopoly applies to Deseret Book in some ways, it doesn’t appear to be detrimental to us the consumers. My observation is that only half of Deseret Book’s sales are in actual books; the rest is in movies, artwork, crafts, jewelry, clothing and an assortment of LDS-related objects. I could be way off base but look at the catalogs they mail and you can see the pattern in the quantity of items for sale. Do consumers really need competition to drive down the price of CTR rings and paintings of the Savior? No, because the prices are already competitive for such an item. If we were paying a $100 for a CTR ring, I’d be the first to boycot.

    The Church is starting it’s own imprint to publish historical work. That’s a good sign but I don’t see a need for them to be the publisher for the General Authorities. You have a valid point that some writers will not get published with Deseret Book being the major publisher since DB can only produce x number of titles, but as long as there are other publishers still operating it’s up to the author and publisher to market the book. I’m all for competition to raise the quality of books and movies.

  8. MoJo on August 27, 2008 at 11:03 am

    I don’t think Kent is talking about competition to drive down the price of kitsch; he’s talking about making books (and maybe films) available that Deseret Book refuses to on the basis that it’s objectionable in some way. Like, say, books like Angel Falling Softly.

    To make such books known and available to the LDS audience, there would then be an outlet for writers who don’t have one now because the only money-making game in town right now is Deseret Book and if they won’t buy your LDS-themed manuscript, almost nobody else will.

  9. Roland on August 27, 2008 at 11:45 am

    The book, music and video industrys in general are all in a major downward spiral because of powerful competition from the free desimination of culture, ideas and art via the internet such as YouTube, Wikipedia, Blogs, iTunes and Google Books, etc, etc, etc.

    If you are want to increase exposure to LDS Culture I would suggest you look at these alternatives. Unfortunately none of them present a compeling business model to encourage new entrepreneurial development.

  10. Velska on August 27, 2008 at 11:50 am

    To MoJo: you say that books like Angel Falling Softly need to be made available. I don’t know anything else about the book, but it seems it’s been published. Card has also been published, although his books may or may not be “Mormon culture” (my vote goes to not).

    Mormons need to see themselves less provincially. More than half of the members are outside North America and the growth center seems to be in Africa or South America.

  11. Clark on August 27, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    Randy, the one on the Utah war. (Sorry, forget the name and I’ve had maybe 2 hours sleep the last while so I’m too tired to look it up)

  12. JimD on August 27, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    . . . “Covenant,” or another Deseret Book imprint . . .

    Huh?

  13. Steve on August 27, 2008 at 12:11 pm

    Not to threadjack here, but lets be honest. Perhaps most of the baptised members are outside of North America, but retention is soooo low that it is totally undeniable that we are still a very American, and even still very Western American religion.

  14. MoJo on August 27, 2008 at 12:38 pm

    Velska, I see your point and I had to go back and re-read my comment. It seems I’ve packed a whole lot of conversations-from-elsewhere into it without giving a decent history.

    1. Deseret Book (either as distributor or retailer) will not make Angel Falling Softly available. Thus, the only outlets for it are the publisher’s and author’s sites and Amazon. It’s more than likely the independent LDS bookstores won’t know about it or be inclined to carry it on their shelves for various reasons, amongst the first being that they might not think it appropriate to its audience. Deseret Book uses its monopoly to keep certain things from its customer base, which wouldn’t be a problem if there were any other comparable LDS distributors/retailers.

    2. The problem with floating all the LDS work (both by and for LDS) on Amazon is that they aren’t tagged correctly, so you may not know from the book’s web page on Amazon that it’s anti. A clearinghouse distributor and/or online retailer, such as an LDS Amazon, would not only make all works related to the church available (unless DB decided to not allow its books to be sold through such a venue), but it would tag all the works correctly and post any warnings that might offend certain readers. At least, that’s the vision in my head.

    Mormons need to see themselves less provincially. More than half of the members are outside North America and the growth center seems to be in Africa or South America.

    3. That is true, and Kent’s all over that with regard to translations v native culture as opposed to exporting Utah Mormonness. I know he made a recent post…uh…somewhere on that.

    . . . “Covenant,” or another Deseret Book imprint . . .

    Huh?

    4. #11. Covenant Books is an “imprint” of Deseret Book, analogous to (or in fact may be) a “wholly owned subsidiary” of Deseret Book. Think of imprints like a filing system for topics/genres.

    5. Back to Velska and how this situation trickles down to unpublished work: There are very few publishers out there willing to take on books that Deseret Book won’t stock. Therefore, most manuscripts that are “risky” won’t see the light of day, no matter how good they are because nobody wants to lose money and publishing is a business.

  15. JimD on August 27, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    Covenant Books is an “imprint” of Deseret Book, . . .

    I was going to reply “no, it isnt’”, but then I did a google search and saw that Deseret Book bought Covenant back in 2006 (how on earth did I miss that one?).

  16. William Morris on August 27, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    Well if you read A Motley Vision, JimD, you wouldn’t have missed it — or that DB also bought Excel (distributor of LDS films) and Seagull Book (the other major LDS retail chain). ;-)

    ————–

    I think that the one thing missing from the picture that Kent paints is the question of untapped vs. current markets. I suspect that many Mormons have already voted with their feet. That is, put off by the type of work (esp. fiction) that dominates the Mormon market, they simply don’t buy Mormon books. I think that there’s reason to believe that the folks who spend money at DB are happy with the status quo.

  17. Jonovitch on August 27, 2008 at 3:11 pm

    Deseret Book bought Seagull?! When did that happen? I thought it was bad enough with they bought out Priestcraft, um, I mean Bookcraft (how’s that for a name for a company that gets gain by peddling pseudo-orthodox wares to the faithful?).

    I was nervous when the Mother Ship assimilated Excel Entertainment, but gobbling Seagull appears downright monopolistic to me.

    To be safe, I buy stuff from Church Distribution. That’s it. The mere existence of Deseret Book stores seems to be perfectly contrary to the repeated counsel to avoid materialism. I personally wouldn’t mind if every one of those stores were shuttered.

    Jon

  18. Jonovitch on August 27, 2008 at 3:21 pm

    One more problem, pointed out in Julie’s post on the new Primary manual.

    Why on earth do the Deseret Book stores sell items meant to compliment/supplement the official Church lesson manuals, when those manuals state clearly to not use such items? (See previous comment on “Bookcraft.”)

    Jon

  19. Kent Larsen on August 27, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    Jon (16), its even worse than you think.

    On the publishing/producing side, Deseret Book purchased:

    * Bookcraft in 1999
    * Excel Entertainment in 2004
    * Covenant Communications (sister company to Seagull Books) in 2006

    On the retail side, Deseret Book has purchased a number of larger LDS bookstores over the years, including stores in Las Vegas, the metro Phoenix area, Seattle, California and St. Louis. But none of these purchases was as big as its purchase of Seagull Books in 2006, which added more than 20 stores (I forget how many exactly) to their ranks.

    While Deseret Book has made these purchases, no one else producing or selling LDS products has made similar purchases.

    Apparently what happens is that when these small businesses come up for sale, Deseret Book is the only company large enough to purchase the companies. Its almost self-fulfilling — Deseret Book is the only company large enough to purchase competitors, and those purchases make it larger, ensuring that it will continue to be the only company large enough to purchase its competitors.

  20. Kent Larsen on August 27, 2008 at 4:06 pm

    William (15), you are right that there is an untapped market, and I suspect that DB’s current customers are largely happy.

    If anything, this shows that it should be possible to build a competitor to Deseret Book by serving the untapped market, or by serving both the untapped market and the customers that can be somehow convinced to abandon Deseret Book.

    This may be quite difficult to accomplish (given how disillusioned the untapped market seems to be), but it should be a way to reduce Deseret Book’s dominance and help balance the market.

  21. John Mansfield on August 27, 2008 at 4:51 pm

    Can anyone explain for me why the homepages for a LDS bookstore in Maryland and another in California are so similar?

  22. sam on August 27, 2008 at 5:38 pm

    Save Mormon culture, disband Deseret Books. That is the way to do it. Get rid of it. Throw it out altogether. Time for our religion to be our religion, not the means for making a buck. Life inside Utah was a bizarre experience for one such as I who was raised Mormon far away from the Mountain West. I can only imagine what it must be like for non-members. Deseret Book adds to the total disconnect between many Mormons and the rest of the world. When Mormons read romantic fiction about how Nephi, Sam, Laman, and Lemuel courted the daughters of Ishmael, we have a real problem. Even if most Mormons didn’t read that book, the blasted thing got published!

    More Mormons have probably read The Work and the Glory than have read A Tale of Two Cities. And we, as a people, are NOT better off for that.

    Get rid of the whole abominable enterprise. It makes me sick to the stomach.

  23. MoJo on August 27, 2008 at 6:08 pm

    When Mormons read romantic fiction about how Nephi, Sam, Laman, and Lemuel courted the daughters of Ishmael, we have a real problem.

    I have no idea what this refers to. Enlightenment, please? (I’ll say, though, that I like delving into the lives of historical characters like that and giving them a fictional life, a la The Red Tent, so I might actually like it.)

    I have not read The Work and the Glory. Do you get your TR taken away for that?

  24. Bookslinger on August 27, 2008 at 6:22 pm

    Outside of the intermountain west, I think Deseret Book seems irrelevant, when you have self-publishing, on-demand publishing/printing, and a myriad of online marketplaces.

    In addition to Amazon.com there are:

    AbeBooks.com
    booksamillion.com
    ebay.com
    half.com
    biblio.com

    That have thousands or millions of people browsing.

  25. Kent Larsen on August 27, 2008 at 7:11 pm

    John (20) its either because they have common ownership, or because the stores use a common company to manage the websites. I know of at least one company that provides this service specifically to LDS stores.

  26. Bookslinger on August 27, 2008 at 7:21 pm

    Is anyone looking at the other side of the coin?

    Maybe those other bookstores and publishers are selling out because they weren’t making a profit, not because the owners/stockholders want to cash in their chips and take their profit.

    The church may be losing money on Deseret Book and those other purchases, but might be doing so in order to keep more retail locations open, and to keep more people working in the LDS publishing business, and thereby keep more options open.

    In other words, what’s the _alternative_ to DB buying them out? The alternative would be them going out of business completely, and those markets going un-served.

  27. Kent Larsen on August 27, 2008 at 7:39 pm

    Sam (21), I understand the sentiment. In some ways I share it. I too was raised far from Utah, and found the culture there quite strange when I lived there.

    But I think disbanding Deseret Book outright is probably over reaching. I think we, members, need at least some (preferably the better portion) of the products that Deseret Book either produces, distributes or sells.

    As for the idea that the bad fiction should not be published or should be banned, please consider what I wrote on Motley Vision at What Bad Mormon Literature Do We Need?

    And if your point is that we should get rid of the whole industry because they are all using religion as the means for making a buck, then I’m not sure how you expect LDS cultural artifacts to be distributed.

    Let’s not go too far, frustrating as Deseret Book and much of the LDS products industry is. The question here is what we can do to make it better, to reduce Deseret Book’s dominance and better balance the products available and the companies or ways that those products are distributed.

  28. Kent Larsen on August 27, 2008 at 7:52 pm

    Bookslinger (24) wrote:

    Maybe those other bookstores and publishers are selling out because they weren’t making a profit,

    Sorry, doesn’t fit the facts. In the case of both Bookcraft and Covenant, it was well known that the owners were trying to retire and cash out.

    The church may be losing money on Deseret Book and those other purchases.

    Again, I don’t think anyone said that this was happening. While I don’t have any knowledge that I can draw on (that data is NOT public. If you don’t work for Deseret Management or Deseret Book and you aren’t on the Board of Directors, you don’t know), I’m fairly confident that Deseret Book is making money.

    In other words, what’s the _alternative_ to DB buying them out? The alternative would be them going out of business completely, and those markets going un-served.

    There isn’t any question that Deseret Book was the best option. I doubt that going out of business completely was the alternative for either Bookcraft or Covenant. I think in both cases a bank-financed employee buyout should have been possible. I suspect that Deseret Book was either willing to pay more, or could finance paying the entire price up front.

    I will admit, that there were just a few alternatives in these cases. And the one contemporary attempt to sell a company, Cornerstone’s purchase of Horizon Distribution, went very bad and the owner of Horizon ended up having to return from an LDS mission as a result. Horizon has since been sold (again) to Cedar Fort in a transaction that could take a decade to complete.

    IMO, if Bookcraft had remained independent of Deseret Book, there would have been one more alternative in Horizon’s case.

  29. ZSorenson on August 27, 2008 at 10:47 pm

    I think mormon culture is a terribly dangerous idea. We don\’t really need a spread of ideas in the church so much as we need a spread of faith. In this sense D books is a blessing because it acts like a venting port for inevitable culture. It\’s managed, and contained. Overseas, some of the leaders I have seen who understand the doctrine best have only the scriptures. So hurrah for deseret books as it is.

    Eventually, more and more members will have read Dickens over McConkie. Better or worse, we have a prophet and scriptures, and we will press forward despite culture.

  30. no-man on August 27, 2008 at 11:38 pm

    I voted with my feet and I feel great about it. I’ve been in Deseret Book twice in 5 years, once out of curiosity and once because I needed a gift and knew they would have it. it’s a creepy place, everything is so sanitized, bland and homogeneous, and since they have so few non-Deseret titles, what’s the point of shopping there?

    Their monopolistic buyouts (prior to buying Seagull, they refused to allow Seagull to distribute DB titles at all… how fair is that?) have convinced me that there is no good reason to shop there. What I can’t get from a national chain or Sam Weller’s, I can get from Amazon or Ebay.

    I agree with ZSorenson — we’re better off without this stuff if this is Mormon culture.

  31. Kent Larsen on August 28, 2008 at 12:03 am

    Zsorenson (27):

    Without culture, the Church itself would die. I’ve already covered this on A Motley Vision. See Why we need Mormon Culture.

    Some kind of Mormon Culture will exist regardless. Culture happens whenever two or more people have some kind of on going relationship, so it always exists. Culture is also NOT incompatible with faith. In fact, spreading the right kind of culture will increase faith.

    I’m NOT saying that the cultural works sold through Deseret Book or through other LDS retailers are what we want or are what increase faith. I am saying that something should and needs to be there.

    Your overseas comment is particularly interesting. Yes, in the face of a lack of cultural support it does seem like some leaders have developed sound understanding of doctrine. But I can’t see that outweighing the low activity rates overseas. Could a strong Mormon culture actually mitigate those rates? I suspect that it keeps many people active in Utah, even if they don’t end up with the best knowledge about the gospel.

    It sounds like you and others are really reacting against the popular LDS culture you abhor. You are then extending this feeling to ALL LDS culture and assuming we can somehow get rid of it. We can’t.

    Instead, let’s come up with acceptable alternatives that we can support and reduce the influence of what you abhor along with the domination by Deseret Book.

  32. John Mansfield on August 28, 2008 at 8:10 am

    An interesting item in the Wikipedia entry for Ensign Books, a chain of stores in California:

    When the Nelson’s moved to California, Craig was responsible for leasing stores in the Pomona Valley Center Open Mall in the late 1970s. At that time he contacted Deseret Book CEO Mr. Mortimor to see if the company had any interest in opening a store in that mall for the LDS interest of the Inland Empire. Interest was expressed by Deseret Book but never acted upon. One possible reason for the lack of interest in opening a church bookstore in the area could be because in the 1970s all stake seventy quorums were encouraged to operate bookstores to provide church material to local members. Profits made from these stores went straight to the missionary funds of the stakes.

    Of course, now there are no stake seventies quorums, nor stake missions.

  33. Kent Larsen on August 28, 2008 at 8:28 am

    John (30), thank you for this piece of information. While I knew many wards/stakes had their own bookstores in the 70s and before, I didn’t know it was a formal policy.

    I’m quite sure that this policy of having the seventy run a bookstore in each ward was discontinued by 1980. I know that my then home ward did away with the “bookstore” (really a cabinet in the lobby of our building) by then.

  34. Jonovitch on August 28, 2008 at 1:00 pm

    I remember getting my first scripture cover/case out of the closet in the basement of a local member. I’m assuming I was at least 8 at the time, which would have been 1985. I had forgotten about that closet “bookstore” and had occasionally wondered why they were selling stuff from their closet and whatever happened to it.

    Jon

  35. StillConfused on August 28, 2008 at 8:23 pm

    So who is going to start the company?

  36. Kent Larsen on August 28, 2008 at 8:53 pm

    StillConfused (33), I wish I knew.

    I’m not even sure exactly what company you are talking about. There is material in the post for several companies.

    We can only hope that the ideas shared here will help get one or more of these companies started.

    Personally, I’m doing everything I can at the moment.

  37. Cyril on August 29, 2008 at 8:30 am

    I wish a Deseret Book store would open in Virgina! Until that time, I will continue to shop at Deseret Book whenever I am \”out west\” and will continue to purchase from them online. And I will continue to consider DB a blessing, too.

  38. Kent Larsen on August 29, 2008 at 2:18 pm

    Cyril (35), if you are in Northern Virginia, the bookstore near the Washington DC Temple is probably fairly close.

    As for the rest of your sentiment, I don’t understand it. You want to continue to have a monopoly? You want to be kept from even knowing that some things exist at the whim of some buyer at Deseret Book?

    I don’t understand your point. Could you explain?

  39. Sarah on August 31, 2008 at 8:55 pm

    I’d rather have Deseret Book online (and brick-and-mortar for when I go to SLC,) than to have nothing but the distribution catalog. As far as I know it’s an even split between Nauvoo and Washington DC in terms of the closest LDS bookstore to me — though if I want a reproduction Book of Mormon I can go to Kirtland quite easily (and when LDS books show up in used bookstores in central Ohio, it’s just as likely that they’re CoC products as Deseret Book or church distribution products.) I was sad that they didn’t put a real LDS bookstore in the middle of the reproduction Kirtland “village;” I’d have loved it even if it had been (horror of horrors) a Deseret Book.

    I guess this is just one more thing that’s frankly a lot easier to worry about when you’re in Utah than when you’re, you know, anywhere else.

  40. Kent Larsen on August 31, 2008 at 11:21 pm

    Sarah, FWIW, I’m in Zion (i.e., New York City).

    We don’t have a Deseret Book store or any other LDS store here.

    Your point is correct, when you don’t have any alternative, you have to use Deseret Book.

    But this is exactly one of the reasons for this post — to figure out how to get those of us trapped into buying from Deseret Book an alternative.

  41. Cyril on September 2, 2008 at 4:30 pm

    Dear Kent,

    Let me see if I can improve your understanding. My comment was a simple statement of fact for me — and for me alone. There was nothing in my few words meant to disparage others from viewing Deseret Book in any light they wish or to discourage their views. Let me restate: I consider Deseret Book a blessing for me and my family and I will continue to do so.

    “You want to continue to have a monopoly?” I don’t really care one way or another. I understand you do. That’s wonderful. Forgive me for not being as enlightened as others.

    “You want to be kept from even knowing that some things exist at the whim of some buyer at Deseret Book?” WOW! I understand your view that Deseret Book isn’t what you would have it be but let me assure you that when I feel deprived of the truth and “kept” from “some things” by “the whim[s]” of others, I, too, perhaps, will feel as you do. But I don’t.

    To reference #40, sorry, but I don’t feel “trapped” by Deseret Book. I am however often trapped by the traffic encountered getting to the “This is the Place” bookstore you reference in your reply.

    I hope my contrary opinion is not too irritating to you. Surely, I hope you will have an increased measure of tolerance for one who is new to the blogging world, has not perhaps yet mastered the etiquette of disagreement, and who, at heart, is just a simple believing and practicing Latter-day Saint.

  42. Kent Larsen on September 2, 2008 at 5:51 pm

    Cyril, I’m not suggesting that you have to see things my way. I asked mainly to understand where you are coming from, not to suggest that I can somehow make you feel the way I feel.

    I’m surprised at your complaint about the traffic. I guess you aren’t a city person, right?!! While I haven’t been to This is the Place in years (I live in New York City), I’m very much a city person, and I doubt the traffic would bother me.

    I’m not irritated by your opinion at all. I guess you just haven’t been put in a situation where Deseret Book’s actions have irritated you.

    In contrast, I hope that my position and description of the problems with Deseret Book will at least let you know that others believe there are big problems with the company and its practices. [and, I hope, that just because a company is owned by the Church doesn't mean its necessarily a good company or that its actions are best for Church members.]

  43. Cyril on September 3, 2008 at 10:55 am

    Dear Kent,

    Lovely reply. Thank you. I have to laugh that you read my being “trapped by traffic” as a complaint. I was raised on a farm and currently live in Richmond, which is not much of a city I admit. Still, traffic around DC is a fact of life but it will have to get a lot worse than it is to keep me from the temple there. I keep a wide selection of opera and Mormon Tabernacle Choir CDs handy for whenever traffic closes in. So the traffic is more an opportunity to sing at the top of my lungs than it is anything else.

    I just can’t help myself from commenting on your last bracketed sentence. I find it difficult to define a company as good — or bad. Certainly those who run companies could be described as good or bad based on their motives, business practices, treatment of customers or shareholders, etc. And gosh darnit I guess I am one of those who, perhaps naively so, do give The Church the benefit of the doubt. I believe “they” at Deseret Book are trying to do what is best for Church members and, like all of us, fail from time to time. I agree that those failures certainly deserve attention and remedy if possible. Now I think it is time to get back to my lurking, oops, reading in here.

  44. Kent Larsen on September 3, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    Cyril, I understand how its difficult to paint an entire group of people — those that make up a company — as “bad” somehow. It isn’t fair, and I apologize.

    I agree that they people at Deseret Book are trying to do what is best for Church members. But we have to remember that this motive is tempered by a more important directive from the Church — to turn a profit so that the profits can be used by the Church.

    I guess if I have to characterize the motives of individuals in Deseret Book, I’d have to say that they are misguided, at least in part because they have, without any particular intent, become a monopoly. In those cases, what seems like the right move from the point of view of a small business can become ethically questionable because of the company’s size and strength among those in its market.

    I doubt most Deseret Book managers and employees see themselves as a monopoly. I realize that the company does NOT fit the legal definition of a monopoly. I use the term because it best fit’s Deseret Book’s domination of the LDS market.

    Regardless, none of this changes the facts or my analysis. I’m just looking for ideas of how to handle the situation — and I think best would be a way to grow the market faster than Deseret Book, so that Deseret Book is no longer a monopoly. That wouldn’t require significant changes at Deseret Book and would probably solve most of the problem. Unfortunately, I don’t see that as a realistic scenario.

  45. Bhodges on September 3, 2008 at 7:03 pm

    An interesting aside: the recent MMM book sure sold like a firecracker. Shows there is a hungry market for better books.

  46. Seagullite on September 10, 2008 at 1:23 am

    Covenant is not really an imprint. I worked for Seagull before and after the buyout and the only thing that really change was the prices. They went up. But this did coincide with an economic shift in America, so it is hard to say what really happen.

    DB’s decision to buy out Seagull has led to some real problems for Seagull in many ways and ultimately hurt the consumer. I imagine that if the LDS book industry were in the position it was in say 30 years ago today, I would say that it would be time to start a new LDS Bookstore, but with the condition of the market now, over saturated and tapped to death, it would be almost impossible. That is why I encourage everyone to do their online shopping at Latter-day Harvest. They have fantastic prices that cannot be beat and have a friendly staff.

    DB buying out Seagull has proved to be a curiosity indeed. I honestly had my manager tell me that we worked for the Church and that it was a spiritual calling. Granted, I loved recommending books that would bring people to Christ, but I will be the first to admit that the industry is a bit odd. I mean, to make money of these books is a very fine line.

  47. Kent Larsen on September 10, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    Seagullite (46) wrote: “Covenant is not really an imprint.” You’re technically right, because imprints don’t have separate editorial staffs. So, but that’s true at the moment. Who knows how long it will last.

    “I would say that it would be time to start a new LDS Bookstore, but with the condition of the market now, over saturated and tapped to death, it would be almost impossible.”

    I think that depends on how you define the market. If the market is simply those in the Intermountain West that have current LDS literary tastes, you may be right that it is “over saturated and tapped to death.” But I like to look at the market as much broader than that.

  48. Jennifer on January 5, 2009 at 5:27 pm

    Well, I had a dream to start my own publishing company, and I did. I published two of my own books, but because I wasn’t a well-established name, distributors wouldn’t touch me. It seems that books published by a well-established publishing company profits better. But what about those that are trying to start out? It’s really hard to make it in the LDS publishing industry when everything centers on DB. Therefore, my publishing company failed before I could even get it off the ground. I couldn’t find a distributor, so therefore I couldn’t accept other people’s work. I could no longer afford to publish my own work, much less other authors. It’s a hard industry to dominate or even get a start in.

    I’m working on opening my own independent bookstore. In some aspects, it will be the same as DB and Seagull, but there are some differences to my store. In researching the industry, I came across this website and felt compelled to respond. Maybe with some luck, my store will be a success and then I can continue on with my publishing company. Books are my passion and so, yes, I frequent DB and Seagull Book a lot. I love to read and because I love to write, I feel it necessary to see what LDS publishers are producing. It keeps me in the industry loop.