Deseret Book is the largest Latter-day Saint book publisher and also owns a chain of LDS bookstores in the western United States. Over 150 people work in its Salt Lake Salt Lake City headquarters. During holidays, over 1000 employees work at over 30 Deseret Book store locations.
Owned wholly by Deseret Management Corporation, which is owned by the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the LDS Church), Deseret Book is managed independently, but distributes uplifting media in accord with church doctrine. As a publisher, Deseret Book publishes under four imprints with media ranging from doctrine and LDS-oriented fiction books, to electronic resources and sound recordings such as Mormon Tabernacle Choir albums.
The Deseret Book Company merged from the Deseret News Bookstore and the Deseret Sunday School Union Bookstore in 1919 and formally adopted its name in 1920. Both of these Utah bookstores trace their organizational roots to George Q. Cannon, a Latter-day Saint General Authority. The bookstore is named after "deseret," a word from the Book of Mormon meaning "honeybee."
George Q. Cannon & Sons
|Some books distributed by Cannon & Sons:
In early 1866 George Q. Cannon published the first issue of Juvenile Instructor magazine. Dated January 1, it was not distributed until later because of problems procuring paper in Utah Territory before completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad. Printed on the Deseret Morning News press, the 8-page bi-monthly magazine was the first serial publication in Utah aimed toward youth. Cannon also organized the Deseret Sunday School Union, an LDS Church organization responsible for educating young Latter-day Saints. The Sunday School Union gained control of the Juvenile Instructor after Cannon died in 1901.
Cannon opened the George Q. Cannon & Sons bookstore in 1867 to sell this and other publications of an uplifting nature. Cannon perceived that novels taken across the plains did not reflect Latter-day Saint values. In the 1880s, Cannon expanded by opening a branch in Ogden, Utah.
It's not known how many books Cannon & Sons actually published. In this era authors commonly self-published, at least in part, with distribution by others. However, Cannon & Sons distributed several important volumes through bookstores and mail order (see table).
The company had extensive ties to the LDS Church-owned newspaper, the Deseret News. Five of Cannon's sons held important positions in the paper, and George Q. Cannon himself was editor between 1867 and 1872, and again while temporarily owning the paper from 1892 to 1898. Nearly every George Q. Cannon & Sons book was printed on the Deseret News press. Cannon sold the bookstore to the LDS Church effective October 1, 1900, near the end of his life. The church grouped management of the two businesses, and the remaining Salt Lake City bookstore became the "Deseret News Bookstore."
Deseret News Bookstore
|Notable books distributed by the Deseret News Bookstore:
By 1906 Deseret News press had a Linotype machine and dedicated book printing press|press. Many significant volumes were published and distributed through the Deseret News Bookstore.
Of these, the most successful was James E. Talmage's Jesus the Christ. Published in September, 1915, the initial 5000-book print run was quickly consumed. The First Presidency authorized the bookstore to produce many more copies for use in Sunday School. Seeking out a higher-capacity press in New York City, Talmage is said to have made revisions for the second edition while on the train. Overseeing second edition in January 1916, Talmage began making revisions for the third edition by February 5. The book went through innumerable printings, and was quickly translated into several languages.
Meanwhile, the Deseret Sunday School Union, still publishing the money-losing Juvenile Instructor, struggled to maintain its distribution center, the Deseret Sunday School Union Bookstore. Aimed at church supply, the Sunday School Bookstore sold textbooks, minutes ledgers, and sacrament trays, as well as popular books. Since 1891 the non-profit Union asked for yearly five-cent contributions from Sunday school pupils on "Nickel Sunday." Facing over $12,000 in debt in 1914, requested donations increased to ten cents, and in 1919 a committee formed to study the organization's solvency. Led by Talmage, the committee recommended consolidation of the Sunday School Bookstore with the Deseret News Bookstore.
|Notable books distributed and/or published by Deseret Book:
By 1920 , both antecedent bookstores were closed and a single new Deseret Book Company building was constructed in Downtown Salt Lake City, Utah, at the site of the present ZCMI Center Mall. Ownership of Deseret Book was split between the Deseret News (70%) and the Deseret Sunday School Union (30%). However, the Union would manage the bookstore until 1932, when Deseret Book was incorporated for-profit as the "Utah Company". The Deseret News bought out the Sunday School Union in 1948 to become sole owner of the bookstore, but both the Deseret News and Deseret Book are now subsidiaries of the Deseret Management Corporation, which manages several for-profit assets of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints . Deseret News Press printed nearly all Deseret Book publications until the 1960s when the company began seeking other competitive bids.
Through the 1930s, the bookstore focused mostly on Sunday school needs such as lesson manuals. Though the bookstore introduced relatively few new authors, several important works were published in this period. Notably, B. H. Roberts' magnum opus, the six-volume Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints, 1930. Deseret Book did not accept manuscripts for publication until the 1940s, when the company made a push for new authors.
Deseret Book expanded into motion picture equipment and photography supplies in the 1940s . Winning an exclusive contract to distribute for Bell & Howell in Utah and parts of Idaho and Wyoming, Deseret Book supplied 16 mm film movie projectors to the LDS Church. Becoming a film distribution and rental outfit, the Deseret Book "Censorship Committee on Films" was established in 1946 because regular employees were unable to review all the films it handled. By 1950, 18 members sat on the committee.
Preceding modern LDS cinema by over 50 years, Deseret Book founded Deseret Film Productions in 1947. The first film, produced by Frank Wise, was Where the Saints have Trod, an 80 minute film celebrating the 100 year anniversary of Mormon pioneers entering Salt Lake Valley. Wise subsequently produced Temple Square, a 30-minute filmed tour of Salt Lake City's Temple Square. Deseret Film recorded in over 120 LDS wards; the conference talks are the first motion pictures of LDS Conferences.
In the 1950s, Brigham Young University established a motion picture department which attracted Frank Wise. Deseret Film Productions was gradually disbanded. Soon, KSL-TV began covering General Conferences.
Deseret Book's downtown location remained the only store until 1959, when the site for an Ogden, Utah, branch was donated. Stores in Orange, California, and greater Salt Lake County opened in malls in 1962. In the 1970s, the original location was torn down to make way for the ZCMI Center Mall where the store reopened on April 2, 1976, during a General Conference to large late crowds. Several more mall locations opened in the 1970s; in Northridge, California, Boise, Idaho, and many more locations in Utah. In 1997, Deseret Book opened its first Washington state location in the city of Bellevue. By 2004, Deseret Book operated over 33 stores in 9 western US states. Expanding its reach in eastern Idaho, the chain also purchased Beehive Book Stores, located in Rexburg, Idaho Falls, and Blackfoot, Idaho. Deseret Book already operated in Idaho Falls at the Grand Teton Mall and in Rexburg. The new store in Rexburg has an expanded merchandise selection compared to the other two stores.
In the late 1970s, Deseret Book coordinated publication of new editions of the King James Version of the Bible and the Book of Mormon/Doctrine and Covenants/Pearl of Great Price "Triple combination". The 1979 publication of the Bible was the first geared toward Latter-day Saints; the text was not altered, but everything was cross-referenced to other scriptures. A comparably styled "triple combination" was introduced in 1981. With notes from the Joseph Smith Translation, James E. Talmage's scripture commentary, and an index and "topical guide," the new editions are now standard in the LDS Church. Typesetting for the volumes was done by Cambridge University Press .
Deseret Book began publishing LDS fiction for the first time in 1979. In 1986 it purchased Mormon Handicraft—a hand-made crafts store—from the Relief Society. As inventory and distribution was centralized in 1984, Deseret Book expanded its lines to include items such as CTR rings and more popular music.
In 2002 Sheri L. Dew became the first female CEO and president of Deseret Book.
In July of 2006, Deseret Book threatened to discontinue sales with another LDS bookstore, Seagull Book and Tape. Seagull competes with Deseret Book's retail operation, but depends on the company's published work, which reportedly accounts for most of its sales. Deseret Book instead opted to renegotiate a distribution contract with Seagull.
Deseret Book imprints
In 1999 Deseret Management Corporation acquired the LDS publisher Bookcraft, Inc., which was merged into Deseret Book. Since the merger, Deseret Book publishes under four differently marketed imprints:
- Deseret Book — history and doctrine
- Bookcraft — self-help, family, children, women's interests, LDS fiction
- Eagle Gate — art, niche markets, library editions, and teaching aides
- Shadow Mountain — general market for "values-based" publications
On November 15, 2004, Deseret Book announced it will acquire Excel Entertainment Group, a 10-year old company particularly known for its LDS cinema productions. Jeff Simpson, the founder and president of Excel, becomes the merged company's new executive vice president. Both companies are privately held, so terms of the deal were not publicly released. However, Deseret Book Management assures that it will take a hands-off approach to managing Excel. Although some Excel employees will be relocated to Shadow Mountain music at Deseret Book headquarters, most will remain at the separate Excel headquarters in Salt Lake City.
- Knowles, Eleanor (1991). Deseret Book Company : 125 years of inspiration, information, and ideas. (1991) Salt Lake City: Deseret Book.