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.
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
- Doubleday Book Club
- Doubleday Large Print
- The Good Cook
- History Book Club
- The Literary Guild
- The Military Book Club
- Mystery Guild
- One Spirit
- Quality Paperback Books
- Rhapsody Book Club
- Science Fiction Book Club
- Scientific American Book Club
- Stephen King Library