Its tempting to shrug off the news that Deseret Book has taken Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight books off the shelves because of customer complaints. After all, Deseret Book has a right to run its business how it pleases. And as Clark Goble observes, in his comment on Beliefnet on this issue, it may be Deseret Book trying to differentiate itself from other bookstores.
But I see a problem.
The problem comes down to the fact that not only isn’t this good for Deseret Book, it isn’t good for Mormon books in general.
Its probably obvious to most people that this is a money looser for Deseret Book. The Twilight books have to bring in thousands of dollars in sales each month for a 50-store chain like DB. And, to be honest, I can’t see the number of complaints they get exceeding the number of copies sold, so I doubt that the fact that Deseret Book sells Twilight is leading to significant lost sales from people who won’t shop at Deseret Book because they sell Twilight (and what choice do such people have anyway? Is there some store that is even MORE stringent than Deseret Book?)
But I really don’t care if Deseret Book makes or looses money on Twilight. Deseret Book’s success isn’t something I care much about. I worry about what this means for the market for LDS products.
One of the biggest problems that LDS products have is the reputation of the market. From my own queries of LDS Church members around the US, I believe the majority of active LDS Church members don’t like to shop in LDS bookstores. Why? The selection doesn’t match what they want. The stores are heavily oriented towards “LDS Fiction”–often romances or didactic works–and to cutsy objects and obvious rip-0ffs of the ideas behind national products. Serious non-fiction (except for works written by LDS General Authorities) is all but absent, as are many other categories typically found in general interest stores.
The problem with this move is that it re-inforces the idea that LDS stores will never carry serious work–that anyone looking for challenging work, well-written fiction and a wide variety of viewpoints won’t find that at Deseret Book or any other LDS stores. And that makes it much, much harder for LDS publishers and authors who are writing significant works to feel like writing for the LDS market is even an option.
As a result, we all loose and the proportion of active LDS members who actually buy books from LDS stores will continue to decline.
Somehow, I don’t think that is good for anyone, not even for the Church.