DB & Twilight

Twilight detail.

So Deseret Book no longer has the Twilight novels on their shelves (cf). Let's see if we can figure out why, shall we?

Leigh Dethman of DB issued a statement:
    Our top priority is to meet the needs of our customers, who increasingly represent a variety of viewpoints . . . . Like any retailer, our purpose is to offer products that are embraced and expected by our customers. When we find products that are met with mixed review, we typically move them to special order status.
So, top priority, meet the needs of an increasing variety of viewpoints.

And how do they do that?

By removing books from their shelves.

It sounds like "meeting the needs of an increasing variety of viewpoints" doesn't mean "providing the books for an increasing variety of viewpoints" but "avoiding offending an increasing variety of viewpoints."


My cynical interpretation of this is that DB cost/benefit analysis now, a year after the last books release, shows that being called a hypocrite for keeping these erotic books on the shelf is starting to outweigh the jillions of dollars they've been making selling them.

My noncynical interpretation is . . . . .

Actually, I can't think of a noncynical interpretation. If you have one, let me know? Thanks!


  1. I can't either. I'm painful cynical when it comes to the pharisaical behaviour of the Church's various entities.

  2. IOW: They got caught with their pants down because they either A) didn't vet the thing first or B) didn't understand the subtext when they did.

    I find both thoroughly believable explanations, which is kinda...sad.

  3. .

    I don't know if that's it. If they really did Just Discover that the books are Inappropriate, then they wouldn't even offer them on special order. I'm willing to wager they won't special-order anything and everything for their hornier customers.

  4. Actually, I can't think of a noncynical interpretation. If you have one, let me know?Maybe a "high up" person finally complained? I agree that selling only "that which doth not offend" makes for a pretty bland sales model, but I don't think that a coldly calculating cost/benefit analysis is necessarily at fault.

    Speaking as someone who's been under censorship from a Church-owned entity before (when the 100 Hour Board was taken down), there isn't really a good evaluative model in place, so the whole thing can come crashing down with one well-placed complaint.

  5. then they wouldn't even offer them on special orderHas anyone tested out their willingness to actually do so?

    I'm willing to bet they won't. But only in the most sweetness and light way.

    Cuz, if they do, you know, I have a book...

  6. 'Fraid I share your cynicism. And so, interestingly, does my eternally optimistic roommate.

  7. Meeting the needs of a variety of viewpoints can be interpreted in two ways: either as the union or the intersection of all the needs of their diverse customer base.
    In this case, the you seem to be arguing that they should address the union of their customer needs, but I don't think that makes sense, since they can't be everything to everyone (that's Amazon's role). Instead, they should be focused at serving the orthodox Mormon market, since that's their reason for existence. And the orthodox Mormon market occasionally gets upset having erotic literature sold next to their hagiographies. (Famously, some of them remove Song of Solomon from their scriptures...) I don't see a problem with letting them have their one single store where they feel safe.

    This is not Fahrenheit 451 - no books are being banned or burned here. It's just a business decision for a niche retailer.

    The only reason I can see for the emotion in this post is that more avant-garde Mormon literature is being kept out of Deseret Book, and therefore authors of such literature are being denied a distribution channel. But you didn't expect Deseret Book to carry the FOB Bible, did you? (I'll buy my copy from Amazon. =)

  8. .

    The issue is less what DB chooses to carry and the fact that, yes, the have every right to pander to an audience. So does every other niche realtor.

    The problem, really, is that they produce the product and sell it. If Random House tried this, they would be shut down pronto even in these monopoly friendly times.

    What happens is that any competitor on the store level has to meet onerous purchase requirements to carry DB product at all. Most cannot take that risk. And on the publisher level, DB effectively shuts out everyone. At present, DB and Seagull (about whom all the same complaints could be made) allow very little competitor product onto the shelves. And since DB and Seagull and only competing between themselves (and share a parent company), that competition is meaningless. So the market becomes stagnant, reaching only a very specific subset of the larger Mormon market.

    Here's a recent post on AMV on the topic which, in turn, links to several more.

  9. (I'll buy my copy from Amazon. =)If you would, pwetty pweeze, buy it directly from the publisher, Peculiar Pages. ;) The proceeds go to LDS Humanitarian Services, and the publisher gets a very teeny margin from Amazon sales.

  10. Twilight is not published by DB, so DB's business practices, while regrettable, don't help me understand the angst about DB carrying or not carrying Twilight.

    Maybe the angst comes from a perception that DB is destroying the market for Mormon books by its greedy business practices, making life hard for emerging Mormon authors. In which case - Good Riddance!! Let DB strangle themselves into oblivion!

    Someone else (maybe you - I'm giving away priceless business opportunities here) can come along with the right business practices to fill the niche. DB can publish hagiographies and insipid self-help books all the way to bankruptcy. We can fill the niche with edgy, insightful Mormon literature and laugh all the way to the bank. We don't need DB's antiquated distribution infrastructure anymore anyway.
    Sounds like a great plan!

    But there's a flaw - what if there is no significant niche for edgy, insightful Mormon literature because Mormon culture itself is artistically moribund, and so Mormons as a group don't want books that challenge them to think or feel. In this case, DB is making the right decision for its business, sad as it may seem, and so frustration at DB is completely misplaced. Instead, we should direct our frustration at our fellow Mormons who consistently prefer parochial, insipid dreck over art and thought...

    In any case, I think DB is irrelevant and only becoming more so.

  11. .

    Your argument is true but may be based on false premises.

    Mormon art outside DB's realm is nearly unknown. Even those who might want to find it cannot--at least not easily. And most Mormons open to wider fare don't imagine that the Mormon market can offer them what they need. I used to be in this camp. (And, to some measure, I still am. But without a market to grow in, how can things get better?)

    You can put a robust zucchini in great soil, but if you put a steel bowl over it, how will it grow?

    The book market is changing and rapidly; solutions to these problems may well be in our near future. And complaining about the present won't help. But unfair and possibly illegal business practices need sunlight for quite the opposite reasons of zucchini.