I believe most true readers have had, at least at some point in their lives, a love affair with either a bookstore or a library. I still love getting lost among bookshelves, happening on some gem of a work that I never knew existed, or glancing into a book I’ve heard of only to emerge, disoriented, hours later, sometimes after extreme journeys in time and space.
But I can count on one hand the LDS Bookstores in which I’ve had that experience. Its not that LDS Bookstores are small (I’ve had this kind of experience in small bookstores), nor is it that they are mostly chain stores (I’ve had the kind of experience I’m talking about in several Barnes & Nobels, as well as in a few Borders stores). Nor is it the quality of the help — I almost never talk to the help or seek their advice (I only talk to staff when I know they know their stuff — or when I’m trying to make sales contacts).
It could simply be that I’m the wrong kind of customer for most LDS bookstores — that there aren’t enough readers like me. But if that’s the case, can someone please explain what the role of LDS Bookstores is or should be?
I’m not trying to suggest that my view of what a bookstore should be is the only view. But I do suspect that most LDS stores have lost focus a bit in what is a changing marketplace. Here are some observations that may give some insight into what I mean:
- We are bombarded with stories of rapid LDS Church growth, even in Utah. But despite that growth the number of LDS stores has actually decreased in the past decade.
- Despite the clear importance of selling books on the Internet, most LDS bookstores outside the two largest chains don’t have an Internet presence.
- Purchasers of LDS books are thought to be as much as 80% women.
- Aside from Deseret Book’s stores in Salt Lake City and Utah county and a couple of independents, LDS bookstores rarely or never hold store events such as readings and author appearances.
I’m not sure what needs to be done, if anything. I’ve heard a variety of reasons for why people think the number of LDS stores are declining, and I’ve even got a few theories of my own — but nothing that I think completely and easily fits the evidence.
So, I’d love to hear from you. Am I right that LDS stores have a problem that threaten’s their existence? If I am, what are the problems, in your opinion?
Do you think that the situation can be turnded around, or is likely to be turned around?
I look forward to your comments!!