Home > Uncategorized > Crossings Book Club Canadian Branch Enters Bankruptcy

Crossings Book Club Canadian Branch Enters Bankruptcy

In the days before internet shopping, if Christian retailers had a particular nemesis, it was the Crossings Book Club.   With customers offered their first five books for only 99-cents — plus a free tote bag — many Christian book consumers found themselves part of the popular negative-option mail order service, while others simply stayed just long enough to complete their minimum obligation to the program, and then would rejoin later getting another five books for a dollar.

Even if you stayed in the program longer, Crossings had the best deals, and Christian bookstores had a tough time competing.

Last week, news came that the Canadian operations of the club, along with the other at least 16 book clubs that were part of the Doubleday Book Club — not related to the Doubleday imprint of Random House — and the Columbia House mail order music and DVD clubs were in receivership.    All the various direct mail companies were part of DB Media (aka Columbia House Canada), a company with a 70 year history, based in Toronto.

For Christian retailers, Crossings low prices were a source of constant frustration.   Reduced prices came through reduced royalties to authors, reductions taken at the expense of book content.   Consumers who signed an agreement that said, “Member editions sometimes reduced in size to fit special presses;” assumed that size meant the book club’s trademark trim size of the book, but it often meant the word-length of book, accomplished through excising minor characters or illustrations or indices.

But the cuts were well known among publishers, in fact, many years ago Word Books decided to publish an omnibus title for the CBA stores, The Best of Barbara Johnson according to what we termed “the Crossings paradigm,” only to have the title delayed for four months while ordered cuts were made to accommodate the reduced royalty arrangements; cuts totaling nearly 100 pages total or 33 pages for each of the three titles that made up the 3-in-1 edition.

This kind of abridgment was rare in our industry, but none of this phased Crossings customers.   If you’re reading a contemporary or historical fiction title, you don’t notice a character who is not there, or a chart or diagram that is missing.   Furthermore, if a title was one of your five sign-up choices,  how can you claim you’re not getting your money’s worth when you only paid 20-cents for the book?

Today’s Christian bookstore owner or manager in Canada has other headaches.   Crossings was no longer the issue that it was ten or fifteen years ago, and often its more recent lists of offerings were padded with cookbooks or other family-friendly fare from one of its other clubs at a time when the average Christian book buyer was much more focused.

Having said all that, it’s equally probably that Crossings was one of the more profitable among the 17 divisions of the book club.

The obvious question here is:  How does this news bode for the U.S. Doubleday operation?   Media reporting on this has been sparse so far, with the December 9th filing coming at the end of a busy pre-Christmas week, and analysis may take several more days to surface.

Appendix:

Wikipedia list of U.S. clubs related to Doubleday and Book-of-the-Month club, which merged in 2000 in the U.S. to form Bookspan:

  • Black Expressions
  • Book-of-the-Month Club
  • BOMC2 (BOMC2.com)
  • Children’s Book-of-the-Month Club
  • Crafter’s Choice
  • Crossings
  • Doubleday Book Club
  • Doubleday Large Print
  • The Good Cook
  • History Book Club
  • InsightOut
  • The Literary Guild
  • The Military Book Club
  • Mosaico
  • Mystery Guild
  • One Spirit
  • Quality Paperback Books
  • Rhapsody Book Club
  • Science Fiction Book Club
  • Scientific American Book Club
  • Stephen King Library

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  1. Sandy Antaloczy
    January 31, 2011 at 5:34 pm

    To all my friends at Crossings.ca. I have been a member for some time now. It is with sincere sadness that I see this now happening. I have enjoyed the highest of service and committment to meet all of my needs. You have all been a blessing to me and my family. We will truly miss being able to shop for our Christian Books online here in Canada. Perhaps this is a blessing in disguise. Just because a door closes, does not mean that a great window will not be opened up to you. I pray for you now to carry on and to listen, for that still small voice behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it.” I will continue to keep you all in my prayers. May the Love, and Peace, of our God and Saviour, that transends all understanding protect your heart in this transitional time.
    following hard after Him
    Sincerely
    Your sister in ‘Christ’

    • paulthinkingoutloud
      January 31, 2011 at 6:12 pm

      Sandy,

      That was a very heartfelt letter. You obviously appreciated the services Crossings provided to you very deeply. But the language that you use — even using a phrase like “your sister” — is the kind of language we would use to address members of the family of God. In fact, Crossings Book Club was simply a business unit of the larger Doubleday Book Club, one of nearly two dozen such clubs. There wasn’t a group of “Christian” people choosing the books, setting the prices, serving customers or shipping your orders. It was just an exchange of money for product, and one minute they were shipping mystery books, and the next minute science fiction, and the next minute inspirational books, and the next minute cookbooks. It’s possible that the U.S. operation keeps a Christian book industry person on retainer as a consultant in the title selection process, but I’m not even sure as to that. Of course, if your prayers are truly with those who lost jobs at Columbia House Canada / Book of the Month Club, then that’s fine. And maybe even non-believers can be conscious of a “still small voice.” But I want to make very certain you understand that Crossings was not a Christian company at all, in any sense of the word.

      I don’t say all that to burst a bubble, but for two more important reasons.

      The first is to say that if you really want to support your brothers and sisters, there are Christian bookstores across the country who would be happy to have you as a customer. Secondly, many of these stores do, in fact, operate online as well as in local communities. You may not get four books for $1 when you place your first order; but you’ll be supporting ministries that are there for people in tough times, and stores that are supporting the work of local churches by their very presence. So you can’t really say, “We will truly miss being able to shop for our Christian Books online here in Canada;” because there are dozens and dozens of other options available to you.

      If you want to write me back and tell me which province you live in, I’d be happy to make a few suggestions.

      • Tom Whittemore
        December 24, 2011 at 6:31 am

        Alberta?!? AND/OR British Columbia?!?

      • paulthinkingoutloud
        December 24, 2011 at 9:37 am

        There’s a great Canadian store finder at YourMusicZone.com; just type in the name of the community you want to search.

        http://yourmusiczone.com/stores.php

  2. James Slyk
    April 19, 2012 at 11:55 pm

    I used to be a member of Crossings book club nearly twenty years ago. What I found frustrating was I had to get my card and order in during the first week of the month with my cheque. However, Crossings would hold on to my cheque for nearly a month before finally cashing it, causing me great grief in trying to balance my bankbook with debit charges and other cheques going through all the time. I would enclose a note asking to please process my payment immediately, but it fell on deaf ears so I finally just quit altogether. It was just too aggravating an experience.

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