Deseret Book’s “Conference Sale” mailing arrived earlier this week. Perhaps riffing off of its Time Out for Woman brand, Deseret Book has themed each of its sections with “A time to [appropriate verb].” It’s an interesting marketing strategy in that it not only extends the idea of women taking time out for themselves (and if there was any doubt that DB’s target audience was women, the mailer also promote a “Ladies Night” on April 5 at all of its locations), but it also suggests what types of things women should take time out for and then what products fit into that category.
I think that it’s a rather clever concept. It evokes Ecclesiastes. It assigns value to each type of reading (or other forms of media consumption). It places an emphasis on the good uses of reading. And it provides a built-in defense for engaging in reading — there is a time and a place for each type.
Here’s what the “a time to …” themes are (in order):
- A time to follow (books by general authorities; 4 pages)
- A time to live (a wide variety of devotional books, including women authors such as Sheri Dew and Wendy Ulrich; 2 pages)
- A time to learn (doctrinal books plus a few odd American-related titles such as Newt Gingrich’s “Real Change”; 2 pages)
- A time for Easter (films, paintings, books; 2 pages)
- A time to teach (a mish-mash of titles for youth, everything from Carmen Rasmusen’s autobiography to a Jack Weyland novel to two fantasy novels; 2 pages)
- A time to prepare (board games, activity books and guides, and books on mothering, family history on the Internet, Internet pornography and Preach My Gospel; 2 pages)
- Scriptures (1 page)
- A time to be stylish (church totes and temple bags that look to be straight from the shelves of Target, 1 page)
- A time to escape (romance and thriller/mystery novels, including titles from Rachel Ann Nunes, Anita Stansfield and Dean Hughes; 2 pages)
- A time to sing (Mo-tab, Kenneth Cope, Michael McLean, etc.; 2 pages)
- A time to relax (DVDs including Return with Honor, Time Out for Women, The Singles 2nd Ward and a talk by Richard L. Bushman by Joseph Smith; 2 pages)
- A time to beautify (framed art by Simon Dewey, Del Parson, Liz Lemon Swindle, etc.; 2 pages)
This is not anything new. In fact, these are the types of titles that can usually be found in any DB mailer/catalog. But I think the use of the tag lines illustrates very well that the Deseret Book strategy is to position self-help and doctrinal books as self-improvement and fiction (or actually romance, historical fiction [although no appearances of that in this mailer] and mystery/thriller) as escapist. Oftentimes, book catalogs are organized around specific genre categories or subject topics. This one not only organizes by categories, it also assigns particular values to those categories.
So I guess the question is (and it’s not one that is really answerable): Is Deseret Book merely reflecting the attitudes of the Mormon market towards reading or is it creating them?