LDS Stores, Chains and the rise of the Internet; or How did we get here?

We’ve all heard the sentiment, I think. Independent bookstores are better than those inhuman chains, whose employees don’t even know books and whose policies made it impossible for new authors to break into the market. A few months ago, a friend made these same familiar claims, that chains of bookstores, especially Barnes & Noble, are somehow “evil” organizations destroying the virtuous, hard-working independent bookstore owner.

It somehow sounds like the plot of an early silent-film melodrama.

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Echos of the Decline of Mormon Retail

The April 2008 issue of Christianity Today featured an article on the changes that have affected Christian retail over the last two decades. The description is surprisingly similar to what has happened to LDS retailers — so much so that I thought the article’s claims bore some analysis here.

The article indicates that the CBA, the former Christian Booksellers Association, “has reported a drop from more than 3,000 members out of an estimated 4,000 Christian retail stores in the mid-1980s to a mere 1,813 members today out of an estimated 2,800 stores in existence.” The same kind of drop has been seen by the LDSBA, which has seen attendance by bookstores at its annual convention drop by half.

Unfortunately, the article is long on description of the problems and short on answers. But there are a few ideas that may help LDS retailers improve.

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Amazon Makes It More Difficult for Small Publishers

A recent policy change by looks like it may make the already difficult job of publishing books even more difficult, especially for small and self-publishers. The change already has small publishers and authors circulating petitions, filing complaints with the US Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission and many state attorneys general. For those Mormon publishers affected, it will probably raise costs and could also limit sales.

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