The Battle Of The Mormon Bookstores

Apparently some dispute has reached a head between Deseret Book and the bookstore chain primarily local to the Salt Lake City area, Seagull Book.  And Deseret Book has announced that it will no longer be selling Deseret Book publications through Seagull Book stores.  This has aroused a great deal of speculation in the Bloggernacle about what the real cause of the dispute might be, but there seems to be little hard evidence to answer the questions that are raised.

An interesting email from Keith Hunter, a Vice President of Sales and Development at Deseret Book, was written in answer to an inquiry from one of its authors.  And it is posted with permission on the blog, Six LDS Writers and A Frog.  Those of you who are interested in following this story may do so on a number of other blogs as well including the group blog, A Motley Vision: Mormon Arts and Culture, and Clevery Blogged.

I personally find it curious that in the various comment thread it is apparently assumed by many that these two giants of Mormon book sales are a closed system fighting over a market that is local to the central Mormon corridor along the Wasatch Front in Utah.  I would imagine that a lot of Deseret Books are sold by Amazon.com and other national and international booksellers.  Is that also true of Seagull Books?  I simply don’t know.  But it seems to me that a bookstore selling primarily Church books would have to go out of the business of selling Church books rather than discontinue selling books published by Deseret Books.  Does anyone reading this know if that is true?

This story is also being reported in the Salt Lake Tribune.

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7 Responses to The Battle Of The Mormon Bookstores

  1. Kent Larsen says:

    Well, the issue has now been resolved. Deseret Book has purchased Seagull Books and its sister company, Covenant Communications. See Motley Vision for my reasons why this is a really, really bad thing!!

  2. Speck says:

    I notice that “Area Authority” has not posted any such missives to any other blogs…interesting.

  3. Area Authority says:

    Dear Brother Redelfs,

    I would ask you to reconsider the undertitle of your Blog…”In the tradition of Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie”. In my humble opinion, you subtract from the spririt and intent of the restored gospel by emphasizing the explanations/interpretations of these great brethren over our current First Presidency and the Twelve. The trump card of the restored gospel always lies with the current prophet, his couselors and the 12 especial witnesses of Christ. Brother McConkie ann his Father-in-Law Jospeh Fielding Smith “carried the flag” with unfailing courage and leadership. Please note the past tense of the verb “To Carry” Our current prophet now CARRIES the Ensign of our Church, and he may provide us with a revelation that supercedes gospel interpretations of these past brethren. Our membership should not be given a “cafeteria” choice on who to defer to on issues. The only choice is the current Prophet.

  4. just Johnna says:

    It looks like there may be a reprieve. Deseret Book has agreed to allow Seagull to continue purchasing books and tapes through August while the two companies negotiate.
    http://www.sltrib.com/business/ci_4072588

  5. Jettboy says:

    Mormon publishing has had real problems the last five years. There are too few publishers and even fewer distributors. There was a time in the mid 90s when things were getting off the ground and moving in a more diversified direction. And then, Deseret Books became greedy or protective, maybe a combination of the two. Even FARMS has been sucked up into the abyss of publishing shrinkage.

    I do not see much positive, at least for now, in the Mormon book world. Even the Signiture Books brand, that is supposed to be an alternative publishing enterprise, has major problems. The first is their absolute fidelity to agnosticism or worse toward Mormonism. That limits a possible audience willing to buy from them. On top of that, they do not have a retail destributor (i.e. book store chain) of their own. Deseret Book has actually done a surprisingly better job of national marketing to non-LDS store chains recently. At least, where they are able to get a leg in at all.

    I am not sure of the solution to this problem. There are at least two I would like to see happen. First, there needs to be more writers of Mormon books of all genres fiction and non-fiction trying for better quality. Second, there needs to be people willing to publish them. That might be harder as it takes money to start such a project. At any rate, the way things are going at the moment is not working. Soon I fear Mormon publishing will get to a stand still to a degree that has only been matched by the pioneer days.

  6. Clark says:

    It seems to me that the bigger problem isn’t in Utah but in small Mormon areas where there is typically just one bookstore. Although to be frank the popularity of the internet and especially internet book sales is cutting away at the brick and mortar stores.

  7. Kent Larsen says:

    John you are right about the import of this. It is possilbe that it will put Seagull out-of-business or cripple it substantially. [Of course, if it doesn’t for some reason, then Deseret Book’s hold over the market would be significantly reduced — LDS bookstores wouldn’t feel like they had to have Deseret Book’s titles!!]

    Your point about sales through Amazon.com is interesting. While Covenant (Seagull’s publishing arm) does sell all its titles through the national network, that isn’t true for Deseret Book. They exclude titles they think are not of interest to the national market (and therefore only of interest to LDS members). Those titles you have to buy from Deseret Book or from their ‘dealers.’

    Because of this, Seagull might be able to get some Deseret Book titles from the national wholesalers (the same people Amazon and the other Internet retailers buy from), but they won’t be able to get everything from them.

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