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Aggressive Discounters are Nothing New

Crossings 2007

In the world before Amazon, both Christian bookstores and their mainstream counterparts faced off against the aggressive discounting of the Doubleday Book Club. The company became a powerhouse in 2000 when it merged with Book-of-the-Month Club and operated 17 different specialty clubs including crafts, sci-fi, cookbooks, kids books and Crossings, a club dedicated to Christian books with advertising in a variety of Christian magazines.

Crossings printed its own hardcover editions. The sign-up agreement stated, “Member editions sometimes reduced in size to fit special presses.” Most people thought it referred to the trim size of the books, but “size” can also mean word count. Sometimes charts and images were excised as well; so the disclaimer could have read, “Member editions are sometimes reduced in word count to appease literary agents to whom we are paying lesser royalties.” Okay, maybe that would have been awkward. There were stories of minor characters being deleted from fiction works, and when a publisher whose material we could access (Inspirational Press)  decided to publish a 3-in-1 book by Barbara Johnson according to a similar paradigm, we were told the completed book was delayed while the equivalent of 100 pages were cut; approximately 33 pages per title in the omnibus.

The thing that irked Christian bookstores was the sign-up incentive. In the example shown above and below from 2007 — which really isn’t that long ago — customers got a NKJV Study Bible plus three books of their choice for only 99-cents. The minimum obligation from that point was easy to reach, and some people would then cancel only to rejoin months later and get more 99-cent hardcover books.

Needless to say, some booksellers were thrilled when Doubleday entered receivership. If you’re new to our industry, you’re probably glad you missed that particular form of competition, but alas, we’re not out of the woods just yet. The Doubleday Book Club has resurfaced online; you choose two books for $5.99 and receive a free gift as well; then you need buy only two more. Will a religious book division be far behind?

Crossings 2007 2

Footnote: Crossings produced a number of imitators, some specializing in books for pastors and academics, and some, like the club operated by Word almost indistinguishable from their Doubleday counterpart.

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