Sunday, 17 July 2011

Further lack of support to Christian bookshops

Our earlier postings (here and here) regarding the forthcoming Altar Missals reveal how the publisher of these books, the Catholic Truth Society (CTS), is showing an appalling lack of support for Christian bookshops through their unwillingness to supply these books to the trade at a reasonable discount. Evidence of a further lack of support can now be seen with regard to the Missal-related publications they are producing.

The order form sent out to parishes, schools and Religious Orders clearly states that parishes who purchase any of these books (Order of Mass booklet, Mass Card, the people’s edition of the Sunday Missal and Weekday Missal etc.) will get the standard parish discount of 25%; schools will get 10%. To quote their website, "Parish Distributors receive a 25% discount on orders from us, rising to 50% discount for booklets and leaflets ordered at the same time as a display unit".

In his response to the Open Letter issued by Christian bookshops, Fergal Martin, the General Secretary of CTS, referred to these "27 other Missal-related items" stating that they will be available to the trade "at our normal trade discounts". He further stated: "we do hope [these items] will offer good opportunities for retailers to sustain their sales during the next few months, particularly in these difficult economic times." Not only was Fergal’s comment patronising in the extreme (as one retailer put it, we should "be satisfied with crumbs from the Master’s table") but, as CTS is giving parishes 25% on the Missal-related products, it shows no intention on their part to support the trade in any shape or form.

These are indeed "difficult economic times". It was clear from the outset that a great deal of money was to be made from the publication of a new translation of the Missal, but is it not a matter of justice and fairness, let alone a christian obligation, to share this with bookshops? Bookshops are, literally, windows on the High Street for Christian publishers, and co-workers in promoting the Gospel.

A fairer deal is certainly being given to bookshops in Ireland. The introductory offer Veritas (the publisher of the Irish edition) is making to the parishes etc in Ireland is also being made available to bookshops - at almost full trade discount. In America, where, admittedly, the market is much larger, things are different again. At least five different publishers will bringing out an edition of the Missal, all of which will be made available to bookshops on terms acceptable to them.

As one contributor to The Christian Bookshops Blog writes, "Come on CTS, we do not run our shops to become worldly rich, but to serve our Lord. Why are you trying so hard to hurt Christian Booksellers in the UK?" In his Encyclical Letter Caritas in veritate, Pope Benedict writes: "Once profit becomes the exclusive goal, if it is produced by improper means and without the common good as its ultimate end, it risks destroying wealth and creating poverty."

The CTS is not alone in treating Christian bookshops in this way, Methodist Publishing are doing a similar thing with the new Methodist hymn book Singing the Faith. The various editions of the hymn book are being made available to bookshops at the same pre-publication price as to churches, but with no trade discount at all.

Christian retailers have a difficult enough task sustaining their businesses at the best of times, and this month will see the closure of another two bookshops - one in Cheltenham, the other in Chester. Our High Streets, and the Church in general, are much the poorer with the demise of each and every bookshop. In the current economic climate, actions such as those outlined above do nothing to encourage us.