English-only?

9.20.05 | | 31 comments

OK, so there’s 12 million LDS Church members, 3.5 million speak Spanish and nearly 1 million speak Portuguese — so 1/3 of the LDS books published are in Spanish and nearly 1/10th are in Portuguese, right?

No? Oh, we should base this on active members because that’s who will purchase books.

So, of the 5+ million active LDS Church members, nearly 1 million speak Spanish and 200,000 speak Portuguese — so 20% of LDS books are in Spanish and 4% are in Portuguese.

Not right? Oh, many members can’t afford books, so lets factor in income levels.

OK, so the income of active North American LDS Church members totals say $115 trillion, and that of active Spanish-speaking members is say $3.7 trillion and Portuguese speakers totals $740 billion — so LDS books in Spanish are 3% of those published, and LDS books in Portuguese are 0.6%, right?

Still not right?

In fact, there are more than 5,000 titles in print (excluding LDS Church Distribution titles) for the LDS market, which, under the above rough, “back-of-the-envelope” calculation, should mean some 150 titles in Spanish and 30 in Portuguese. I’ll bet other languages would also, theoretically, have something in print. But my research shows perhaps 50 titles in Spanish and less than 10 in Portuguese.

Why aren’t there more titles in Spanish and Portuguese, and other languages?

Of course the answer is because no one except the Church is publishing LDS titles in Spanish and Portuguese. Why?

I don’t mean to deny the complexities of the situation. It isn’t a simple situation. But I don’t believe in any lack of demand on the part of members outside the US. Instead, I think many of the assumptions made by publishers make the situation more difficult. Add to this the historical situation, and we have a classic ‘Chicken and Egg’ situation that needs to be overcome.

The basic difficulty is more of distribution than anything else. In the Portuguese-speaking world, for example, there is just one LDS bookstore. Outside of the US, there are perhaps a handful of bookstores serving Spanish-speaking members. So if you publish a book in Spanish or Portuguese, who buys it? Where will Church members purchase the book? On the Internet? What about the fact that Internet usage is much lower in Latin America? And if books in Spanish or Portuguese have been published, how do Church members find out about these books?

Part of the difficulty is that some minimum number of books must be published each year for a bookseller (regardless of what kind of store or service it is) to survive. Right now we may get 4 new Spanish-language books each year. That means that on average a customer doesn’t need to visit a store more than once every three months to keep up with what the new titles are. And to have one copy of everything, they only have to purchase 4 books a year. A bookseller will have to have a lot of customers to survive that way.

Ideally, a bookstore wants their customers to visit monthly or perhaps even more often. That means at least 12 new titles a year. Without that, the bookstore simply can’t get enough sales to survive.

Publishers, for their part, have a somewhat different issue — they can’t make money if they can’t sell enough copies. With today’s print-on-demand capabilities, this doesn’t have to be as many copies as it used to be, but they do have to believe that enough copies of a book can be sold to make a profit. And if the book involves translation, then the number of copies that must be sold is much, much higher.

Of course I do believe that the ‘chicken-and-egg’ difficulty will be overcome. I believe it will start in the US, where Spanish-speakers have higher disposible incomes and easier access to LDS bookstores than in foreign countries. Most LDS booksellers I’ve spoken with recently claim they are crying for Spanish-language titles. But publishers haven’t yet recognized enough of a US market for Spanish-language materials. And when a Spanish-speaking member bothers to go into an LDS bookstore, they usually only find the same titles they’ve seen before, because the market is only producing 4 new titles a year.

If publishers find they can sell enough books in Spanish in the US market, they will be willing to publish for that market, and their books will soon find their way into Mexico and other Latin American markets. That will lead to local bookstores and eventually local LDS publishers.

Obviously, publishers can do the most to overcome the problem, simply by publishing in Spanish. As a publisher, I’m trying to do my part to overcome it. I’m actively looking for authors and manuscripts in Spanish and Portuguese, and I have a handful of possibilities so far. Authors and translators can also help by providing works in these languages, although original works are simply cheaper than translations, unless the translator works for free.

Even consumers can help, if they can read in Spanish or Portuguese. Just asking what the LDS bookseller has in foreign languages can influence them to look for more, and purchasing what they have is even better. Was your mission language in one of these languages? Why not read something in your mission language?

Like many issues in the development of a market for LDS books, this one is related to growth. And growth in Spanish and Portuguese-language countries has been brisk. Eventually this problem will be solved. To me it seems like it should have been solved already.

Let’s get this problem solved soon.

31 comments: “English-only?

  1. Anonymous

    Excellent post, thank you.

    A sidenote: I was in the Houston Temple a few years ago, waiting for a session to start, and decided to browse the Spanish Bible in front of me. Now, my Spanish is pretty crummy, but I was able to determine that the front matter of this Bible suggested that all one had to do to go to heaven was to accept Jesus as their personal Savior. Needless to say, this Bible wasn’t published by the Church. Does anyone know if there is an official Spanish Bible (now)? Or if one is published by the Church?  

    Posted by Julie in Austin

  2. Anonymous

    I don’t know, Kent. My personal experience suggests there isn’t a market. People just don’t read books in Brazil – and I think the same is true for the greater part of central and south America. That is, of course, a gross generalization, but one I think is generally accurate. I entered over a thousand homes and I don’t recall seeing many books of any sort from either members or non-members. It’s just not a culture of reading – especially when it comes to fiction. I don’t ever remember seeing any fiction books of any type anywhere. A few members had Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith and a few other church books that you can pick up at that little bookstore by the temple in Sao Paulo. But people spend their life savings getting to the temple – they’re generally not going to buy extra books while they’re there.

    Speaking of which, I think distribution is going to become even more difficult with the new temples. Now that there are two other temples besides Sao Paulo, and another on its way, fewer people are traveling to Sao Paulo. Many people will have no way to get to a bookstore, even if they wanted to.
     

    Posted by Eric Russell

  3. Anonymous

    I don’t know anything about this market so I can’t speak to its viability, but I would be curious to know what types of LDS-related books are being published in Spanish and Portugese and (if this can be determined) which ones have sold the best.

    I’d imagine that non-fiction, devotional-type works would make up the majority of the titles that appear. 

    Posted by William Morris

  4. Anonymous

    Eric:

    I think a better point to make is that the socioeconomic group that the great majority of LDS Church members belong to doesn’t read much. (See David Knowlton’s article in the Summer 2005 Dialogue for a detailed breakdown of census data)

    Julie:

    There is no Bible published by the LDS Church in Spanish.

     

    Posted by Capt Jack

  5. Anonymous

    We face the same situation in music. I do hear the occasional cry for LDS music in Spanish. The only ones I’ve seen so far have been translated and re-recorded versions of Kenneth Cope standards, that kind of thing.

    I do have to say, too, that perhaps some of the responsibility lies with the LDS members in latin america. While it would be great for us to begin producing material here in America, they can begin writing, there, too. It costs money to publish, but it only takes a pen and paper and a mind to write.

    MRKH

     

    Posted by Mark Hansen

  6. Anonymous

    Japan is a case of a relatively rich and well-read population, but low membership numbers. There are about 120,000 members on the roles, and probably 30,000 active members.

    In the 1990s there was a small independent publisher of Church material in Japan, Beehive Press, run out of Kobe. They published six or seven translations of Bookcraft-type books written by General Authorities, things that the Church’s translation department in Tokyo were not going to get to. They also published an origional history of the Church in Japan, written in Japanese, co-written by two members, an American and a Japanese. I am not sure how they advertized, I saw a flyer listing their books at someone’s home. There also was an independent journal, Mormon Forum, which was kind of a Dialogue-light, which included advertisements for Beehive Press. I know a few people who bought their books, but not a lot. The journal folded around 2000, and I think the publisher is also not an active company anymore. Also, there is no independent Mormon bookstore in Japan, so there are no good distribution sites. But there certainly is a market of people ready to read more than the Church can provide. So far they are getting it through Church-themed email discussion sites and blogs, of which there are many. 

    Posted by Andrew Hall

  7. Anonymous

    Eric:

    You are right in a sense. There is less of a reading tradition in Brazil and in the rest of South America. In the case of Brazil (you may remember that my business imports books from Brazil), the average number of books read per person is perhaps 1/8th of what it is in the US and 1/10th or less what it is in Europe.

    But that doesn’t change the fact that some Brazilians do read. And the anecdotal evidence I have is that some LDS Brazilians do read also. I believe much of the reason that Brazilians read less is income levels, which has influenced the reading tradition there.

    Regardless, the question isn’t whether or not Brazilians or other South Americans read — we know they read less than North Americans and Europeans — but rather whether there are enough that a market can be sustained.

    We won’t know for sure until someone tries. There are some attempts in Portuguese — I know of 2 or 3 recent (last year or so) books published in Portuguese. And I know of a nascent LDS bookstore in Porto, Portugal.

    More important, however, is the Spanish market. It has the advantage of having several hundred thousand members in the US, and the potential that the US portion of the market can help jumpstart the market. In addition, there are 2 or 3 bookstores in Mexico, a new bookstore in Guatemala and a gentleman in Chile who sells LDS books. I’m looking for the Spanish market to start first.

    Will most Spanish-speaking members buy LDS books? Probably not. But the question is will there be enough who will to support a market and allow the market to develop. With 1 million active LDS members who speak Spanish, I believe that there clearly is a potential market, even if only 1% of those active members are willing and able to purchase books.

    Eric, your comments about the Temples in Brazil are well taken. At the moment there are 4 operating Temples in Brazil (São Paulo, Campinas, Porto Alegre and Recife) and a 5th (Curitiba) on the way. But long term this has the potential of creating more LDS bookstores — one near each Temple — as the market develops. So in the short term these Temples will make it more difficult for the São Paulo store, but long term they will make it better for publishers. 

    Posted by Kent Larsen

  8. Anonymous

    Julie:

    The Church uses the Reina Valera edition of the bible. There are versions that don’t have the statement at the beginning that you saw.

    If I understand correctly, the Reina Valera is similar to the King James — its used among Protestants more than Catholics.

    In Portuguese, the situation is also similar. The Church uses the João Ferreira version, which is used by Protestants (and if I remember correctly, it is actually a translation of the King James). 

    Posted by Kent Larsen

  9. Anonymous

    Andrew:

    Your information about Japan is very, very interesting. I suspect that Japan probably just doesn’t quite have enough members to make this work yet, but I don’t know all the facts.

    IMO, they would be more successful if they did NOT do translations (they take a long time, are more expensive, and are less likely to be sensitive to cultural issues important to the audience).

    Too bad it didn’t work out. 

    Posted by Kent Larsen

  10. Anonymous

    Do you know how cohesive the Spanish language publishing world is in general? Is it one global market or many national markets? Is a best-selling novel in Mexico likely to also sell in bookstores in Spain and Peru? 

    Posted by John Mansfield

  11. Anonymous

    Several items:
    ————– #1:

    The LDS Distribution center has lots of stuff in Spanish (and other languages) that you can’t see on the ldscatalog.com web site.

    You have to order the “Language Material Listing” to see it. The Spanish one is catalog # 93015002.

    And the Portuguese one is: 93015059.

    On the main page, look under “Other Language Materials”, then click on “Language Materials Listings.” There are over 150 languages for which the church has something translated.

    First thing to get translated is “Testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith” pamphlet.

    2nd to get translated to a target language is Gospel Fundamentals (formerly known as Gospel Principles Simplified). Gospel Fundamentals is the 36 chapter scaled down version of Gospel Principles which has 47 chapters. (The Language Materials Listings can be confusing, because some say “Gospel Principles”, and if you order it, you’ll get “Gospel Principles Simplified”.)

    3rd thing to get translated usually is the Book of Mormon. I don’t know what comes next, but eventually, the full 47 chapter “Gospel Principles” gets translated.

    ————– #2:

    Kent: It looked like you used an annual income figure of $38 million dollars per active member including children. Assuming 3 million English-as-primary-language Active members, and assuming a per-capita annual income of $15,000 (which is high, given the high percentage of active members who are children/teens, and SAHM’s), that would be an aggregate income of $45 billion, not $115 trillion.

    ————– #3:

    If we don’t read the Priesthood/Relief Society lesson for the upcoming Sunday, why do we read (or expect others to read) less important non-official church-related books from Deseret and Bookcraft?

    ————– #4:

    Not only is illiteracy high in Latin America, but the difference in colloquialisms would require translators to use formal (ie, avoiding the kind of common conversational words that change with fashion) and simple Spanish, or create different translations for different regions. Church translators use a good blend of formal and simple. I noticed long ago that Gospel Principles is written at about an 8th grade level.

    I also wondered why the Book of Mormon uses such simple language, and realized it was better for making translations to other languages. IMO, the Book of Mormon does not use King James English like the Bible does. The Book of Mormon just seems to be in King James because of some word forms like “thee/thou” and putting “eth” and “est” at the end of some words.

    BTW, does anyone know the rule when to use “you” and when to use “ye/thou” ? I think the difference between thee and thou is that thee is used as an object and thou is used as a subject.

    The vocabulary of the BoM is quite simple. And the sentence structure is much simpler than a lot of the King James of the Bible.

    ————– #5:

    The church can’t use the Reina Valera (RVR) version of 1960 because it is copyrighted and the copyright owners won’t give permission to the church. KJV is public domain. However, the Reina Valera version of 1909 IS public domain, so the church could use that, but it’s too much different from the 1960. I’m not sure what the doctrinal or vocabulary differences are.

    You can find paperback RVR 1909 Spanish Bibles (and KJV Bibles) at dollar stores for $1, but they are very tiny print and on very cheap pulp newsprint paper.

    BTW, there are now 1977 and 1995 versions of Reina Valera. See http://www.bibles.com and http://www.ibsdirect.com/

    ————– #6:

    If people really want to see church-related books (not the church-published books) in Spanish and Portuguese, you could fund the translation of some Deseret/Bookcraft titles, and fund some of the marketing.

    A very few already have been translated and are available through the distribution center. See the previously mentioned Language Materials Listings. Some are on the ldscatalog.com web site, on the main page, look under “Other Language Materials”, and click on “Spanish” or “French.”

    ————– #7:

    I suppose the Church could sponsor a new Spanish translation by getting some Hebrew/Greek/Aramaic/Spanish scholars, and start with the RVR 1909 translation, and create a new translation in a “clean room” environment. That would sort of be like how programmers of clone computer makers wrote their early BIOS code in “clean room” conditions because IBM had copyrighted their IBM-PC BIOS. They had to come up with an equivalent, but demonstrate that they took nothing from the copyrighted version, and any similarities came about through independent means.

    But RVR 1960 is “good enough” and resources need to be dedicated elsewhere.

    ————– #8:

    You can get quality Spanish RVR 1960 paperback bibles for $1.99 each (plus shipping) in cases of 24, from American Bible Society, http://www.bibles.com

    If any of you are in Spanish wards/branches, and members can’t afford the $9 for the least expensive Spanish Bible that the Dist Center offers, then check out http://www.bibles.com/ 

     

    Posted by GreenEggz

  12. Anonymous

    John Mansfield:

    Do you know how cohesive the Spanish language
    publishing world is in general? Is it one global
    market or many national markets? Is a best-selling
    novel in Mexico likely to also sell in bookstores
    in Spain and Peru?

    It is my understanding that the Spanish language publishing world is still more national markets than a cohesive worldwide market. The direction is clearly toward a worldwide market, especially with the development of multinational publishers like Santillana and Oceano.

    But for the moment, its many national markets. The fact that they share the same language does tend to make their best-seller lists (for example) similar, but they aren’t identical.

    For LDS publishing, this doesn’t really have much impact, except that the Spanish used in different regions does vary — some words in one part of the world (Mexico, for example) have substantially different cultural meaning in other parts (Spain or Argentina, to continue the example). LDS publishers will want to try to publish worldwide editions, and thus need to tailor their Spanish to one that is palatable worldwide. Fortunately, the Spanish used on US television is becoming a kind of standard for worldwide Spanish.

     

    Posted by Kent Larsen

  13. Anonymous

    GreenEggz:

    I’ll respond by number.

    #1 — I’m not sure how this is relevant. I explicitly excluded LDS distribution materials from my analysis. My argument isn’t that the Church isn’t providing the minimum material needed, but that the market for independent publishing hasn’t developed when it should have. If you don’t agree that this is important, then please read my previous post “Why A Market for LDS Books? ”

    I should also mention that the “Language Materials Listing” (as well as all the information at LDSCatalog.com) is for the Salt Lake Distribution Center. Other distribution centers have materials that is not listed in the “Language Materials Listing” that Salt Lake has. I know that the distribution center in São Paulo, Brazil has a number of books in stock that are not available in the US.

    #2 — The numbers I gave were “back of the envelope,” illustrative calculations, meant to be in the ball-park, but not expected to be accurate. The figures I used for North America were $41,500 per person for GNP (which is probably not the right number to use — something like disposable income would be better, but I couldn’t find the right data, so I used what I could find). Comparable numbers for Latin America are about $3,800 per person (less than 10% of North American numbers).

    Let’s not get into a discussion of the numbers. They were only a device for pointing out that a market should exist.

    #3 — Again I must refer you to my earlier post “Why A Market for LDS Books?“. I agree members should read the basics first. But many members want more and are willing to pay for it. I believe this also occurs to some degree in other countries, and I believe that this desire for additional works has value to the Church as well. Whether there are enough people in a given language to support bookstores and publishers is the question. I believe there are enough in Spanish and that there may also be enough in Portuguese. Andrew’s example seems to imply there were not enough in Japan.

    #4 — Interesting, but I’m not sure how it relates to the topic here. I’m not implying that everything needs to be translated. [I believe both Spanish and Portuguese speakers will be better off and the market will develop better if they get a substantial portion of their material originally written in Spanish or Portuguese.]

    As for the different varieties of Spanish in different regions, I agree. It is a complication, but actually here in the U.S. we have a bit of an advantage, because the Spanish used here on TV and in major media is approaching a kind of universal Spanish.

    #5 — Thanks for the information. I didn’t know this. I wonder how much it would cost to get the rights to publish a Reina Valera version for the LDS market?

    #6 — The last think I would advocate is extending the Deseret Book monopoly still further. I thought the purchase of Bookcraft was anti-competitive and said so when it happened. I still think so. I think the current domination of the LDS market by Deseret Book is bad for the Church. So no, I don’t think that your suggestion is the way to go.

    But regardless of my feelings about Deseret Book, the biggest problem with your suggestion is that it locks local members out of the process of authoring, editing and publishing books. Don’t we want local members to be involved in this way? I sure do.

    #7 & #8 — Again the information is appreciated. However, I might note that the American Bible Society (whose headquarters is just 4 blocks from the Manhattan Temple) is quite anti-Mormon. I’m not sure I want to support them.

     

    Posted by Kent Larsen

  14. Anonymous

    All this concern over Spanish and whether Mexicans can understand what Argentines write, etc.. is really overdone.

    The fact is that Latin Americans watch TV shows, movies, and read books from each others’ countries all the time with no problems whatsoever. This has been going on for decades now: witness the success of Cantinflas comedies, Mafalda comic books, El Chapulin Colorado, Venezuelan soap operas, Julio Cortazár novels, Garcia-Márquez’s fiction and non-fiction, or the longest running TV show on earth, Sábado Gigante.

    There is a slight problem between Spain and Latin America with the use of vosotros instead of ustedes, but even that isn’t too much of a big deal.

    The bottom line is that no LDS book written in Spanish would have to have different versions for the different markets. Nor would the book necessarily have to be “dumbed down”, although it might simply given the reality of where most LDS baptisms come from. But those folks would also likely have trouble understanding newspapers written in their own country by their own countrymen, so their troubles would be more a function of shortcomings in their own education.

    I’ve never heard that Spanish as spoken on TV in the US is becoming the standard. I don’t see how that can be, as except for newscasts almost all of their programming is from Latin America, primarily Mexico but occasionally from other places.

    I realize that we’re talking about LDS publications, but I’d warn returned missionaries about the dangers of assuming that all Latin Americans are like those they spent their time with as missionaries.

    An example would be statements like “people don’t read books”, statements which simply aren’t true. Every major daily in Latin America has a literary supplement that is published weekly, usually on Saturday but sometimes on Fridays or Sundays. I doubt they’d go to the trouble of doing that if nobody read books.  

    Posted by Chespirito

  15. Anonymous

    On my mission, the Area President said the Reina Valera translation (which we were using) was one of the worst translations that existed.
    There are hymns in Spanish that don’t exist in the English hymnal, they’re very good too.
    I also think the statement of “Latins don’t read books” has a little merit though I think it has to do more with valuing books. In order to get people to value the Book of Mormon, we sold the Book of Mormon to investigators (I think it equated to one dollar). 

    Posted by TJ

  16. Anonymous

    Chespirito:

    Sounds like you know the subject of the linguistic differences better than I do. I do know that its not the majority of the words that are a problem, but a minority of words that are different in different regions. When I worked at a children’s book publisher here in New York, we published the book “A Birthday Cake for Little Bear” and discovered that the term “Birthday Cake” varies significantly. We ended up with “Una Torta de Cumpleaños para Osito.” I’ve heard of three or four different words for “Birthday Cake” depending on where in the Spanish-speaking world the speaker is from.

    But while I think this is something that an LDS publisher should be aware of, its certainly not crucial to the argument that there should be more LDS books in Spanish, an argument you agree with, I take it.

    As for the US version becoming a standard, I was referring to the language used in the newscasts, not the imported programming. I’m sorry for the misunderstanding.

    I also completely agree with you on the reading and book publishing that happens in Latin America. It does happen, and newspapers do have literary supplements (the ones in Brazil are better than the average I see in the US!).

    But it is also clear that both reading and book sales are statistically less in Latin America. Brazilians read less than 2 books a year on average, according to widely-published statistics there. This compares to 8 or more a year here and 10-12 a year in parts of Europe. Book sales per capita in various countries make this clear also.

    Of course, as I tried to make clear, a good part of this is simply income levels in these countries. The rest is probably from cultural norms — which were influenced by lower income levels over the long term.

    Still, the bottom line is, even factoring in the lower level that those in Latin America read, we should have more books published in Spanish and Portuguese (and, I suspect, in other languages also). 

    Posted by Kent Larsen

  17. Anonymous

    Chespirito:

    Sounds like you know the subject of the linguistic differences better than I do. I do know that its not the majority of the words that are a problem, but a minority of words that are different in different regions. When I worked at a children’s book publisher here in New York, we published the book “A Birthday Cake for Little Bear” and discovered that the term “Birthday Cake” varies significantly. We ended up with “Una Torta de Cumpleaños para Osito.” I’ve heard of three or four different words for “Birthday Cake” depending on where in the Spanish-speaking world the speaker is from.

    But while I think this is something that an LDS publisher should be aware of, its certainly not crucial to the argument that there should be more LDS books in Spanish, an argument you agree with, I take it.

    As for the US version becoming a standard, I was referring to the language used in the newscasts, not the imported programming. I’m sorry for the misunderstanding.

    I also completely agree with you on the reading and book publishing that happens in Latin America. It does happen, and newspapers do have literary supplements (the ones in Brazil are better than the average I see in the US!).

    But it is also clear that both reading and book sales are statistically less in Latin America. Brazilians read less than 2 books a year on average, according to widely-published statistics there. This compares to 8 or more a year here and 10-12 a year in parts of Europe. Book sales per capita in various countries make this clear also.

    Of course, as I tried to make clear, a good part of this is simply income levels in these countries. The rest is probably from cultural norms — which were influenced by lower income levels over the long term.

    Still, the bottom line is, even factoring in the lower level that those in Latin America read, we should have more books published in Spanish and Portuguese (and, I suspect, in other languages also). 

    Posted by Kent Larsen

  18. Anonymous

    I agree that there should be more.

    Have you considered approaching some general authorities or former general authorities about writing something?

    I’m thinking of someone like Angel Abrea who is now a GA emeritus, or possibly Eduardo Ayala who was released from the Second Quorum of the Seventy.  

    Posted by Chesperito

  19. Anonymous

    I certainly would and probably will approach GAs when the time is right and I’m ready. But I think that Deseret Book has that relationship sewed up pretty tightly.

    It is my understanding that ever since Mormon Doctrine was first published in the late 1950s, everything that GAs publish must be approved — and I believe that process delays and complicates the publishing process significantly.

    Of course, released GAs probably don’t face that difficulty.

    Your suggestions are good, and as soon as my own publishing venture is ready, I will approach them. 

    Posted by Kent Larsen

  20. Books of Mormon in Indy

    Kent,

    I didn’t know the American Bible Society is anti-mormon. Interesting, but not surprising. If you buy a Spanish RVR 1960 hard-cover Bible from the Salt Lake Distribution Center, you get the ABS edition.

    I’ve purchased at least a dozen cases of “outreach” Bibles in English and Spanish from them.

    I also have a quote for printing a custom-edition paperback Bible from ABS. You can take one of their standard outreach edition bibles, and customize the front/back cover, and add 16 pages of your own copy (8 in the front, and 8 in the back.) Many churches do that for their outreach ministries, putting their own messages in.

    In quantity 5,000 you can get custom prints from ABS for just over $3/each including shipping. I was thinking of doing this on my own, being my own publisher, and just using ABS as the printer, and paying for it out of my own pocket, and then selling the Bibles at cost to other members for their member-missionary work, and giving some to missionaries and the mission office, and then using the rest myself.

    The church has a blue soft-cover “missionary edition” KJV Bible, but you can’t buy it, (it’s only available through missionaries and the 800#) and I need to give out some kind of inexpensive English Bible when I give out English Books of Mormon. I find that handing out the Bible/BoM in pairs opens many doors.

    Even the missionaries can’t get enough of the missionary-edition KJV softcover Bible, and in my opinion, not having a Bible to give out with a Book of Mormon really hampers things.

    So, I was thinking of using those 16 custom pages to include a list of the LDS chapels in Indiana, a list of mission office addresses and phone #’s, and whatever basic things that the church’s copyright office would let me reproduce like the Articles of Faith. And maybe some testimonies of members.

    Posted by GreenEggz

  21. Books of Mormon in Indy

    Kent,

    Does Deseret/Bookcraft have the copyrights to their authors’ works, or do the copyrights remain with the authors?

    When I said take a Deseret title, translate it, and publish it yourself, I thought you could just get permission from the author, and not have to go through Deseret and support them.

    Deseret may have English publication rights, but you’d have to have the author check their contract with Deseret to see if Deseret had foreign language publishing rights or just English publishing rights.

    A translation is an entirely new work, subject to a new copyright, so I would assume that unless the book is already translated, then Deseret would not have exclusive rights to future translations.

  22. Kent Larsen

    Books of Mormon in Indy:

    The custom in book publishing is that the copyright is owned by the author, but licensed to the publisher for the life of the copyright. Also, the original publisher generally gets worldwide rights in the book (including translation rights), which it then licenses to those that can best serve a particular market (i.e., a publisher in France for the rights in French for France).

    Of course, what complicates this is that LDS publishers don’t always follow industry standards, so just because the above is how contracts are normally written doesn’t mean that they are written that way at Deseret Book or elsewhere.

    You are right that there may be some advantage in contacting the authors and asking for the rights. That’s the way that I would approach it.

    But, to be honest, I think that its very likely that Deseret Book has the rights to most of the recent books, especially because it has a list of about 10 titles that it has published in Spanish and Portuguese.

     

    Posted by Kent Larsen

  23. David Hall

    An interesting exchange, this. I have 3 points.
    1. Shortly after I started Mapletree Publishing Company, my wife and I visited Brazil to pick up our son from his mission, and we spent a week with him visiting members he worked with during his mission. When they found out I was a publisher, almost all of them voiced their hunger for LDS books in Portuguese, which they weren’t able to get. Among members of the Church there, there is a strong demand for LDS reading material.
    2. Having said that, distribution and economics are serious problems. There is only one VERY small LDS bookstore in Brazil, and they carry only a handful of titles. I don’t know a good way to get LDS books to most of these people. A commercial enterprise like a publisher can’t use membership rolls for marketing. You can’t use church meetings. And the people aren’t going to travel to Sao Paulo from all over Brazil to buy books. Many of them don’t trust the mail. I don’t know a good answer. Plus, when you produce a book there are certain fixed costs: editorial or translation, interior design, cover design, typesetting, etc. You have to sell so many thousands of books to recoup those costs, if you sell the books at normal prices. Plus printing expenses per copy rise dramatically the smaller your print run. So the demand has to rise to a certain level before the economics work. Thus, only the most popular LDS titles are feasible to publish in some of these foreign languages.
    3. Mapletree isn’t a typical LDS publisher–we are working 90% in general markets, and maybe only 10% in LDS markets. But I believe the other LDS publishers also generally seek world rights, meaning that a translator or foreign publisher needs to deal with us to get the rights to publish any of our titles in a foreign country. Typical publishing contracts grant those rights to the publisher only while the book is in print, not for the life of the copyright. When the book goes out of print, the rights should be reverting back to the author and the publisher is out of the picture.
    I hope this is helpful. 

    Posted by David Hall

  24. Sonia Pineda

    We are a Hispanic family who recently opened our own translation, publishing and Spanish LDS store as an effort to make more Spanish LDS books availbale to our brother’s and siters worldwide. So far, the hardest part has been getting the word out. The members who know about it are exited. we have done some radio and tv ads, however, we have a long way to go to reach all Hispanic LDS. Do you have any ideas how to spread the word in an economical way?

  25. Ryan

    Since no one else has mentioned this, there is a German publisher named “LDS Books” :)

    http://www.ldsbooks.de/

    They have a license with DB to translate books and sell them on the German market.

    You have to “subscribe” to get their books and they translate four titles per year. You must pay for and get all of them, but members get to “vote” on which titles they want translated.

    As far as the numbers–exists since 1986, costs 17,60 € per quarter (about 25 bucks). They claim production of 80 books.

    They market very intensely (through members to all newly-baptized members and maybe in Church magazines, too).

    That said, there is a desparate need for LDS literature in German (at least, a lot of members that say they want it).

    36000 members in Germany. I don’t know numbers for German-speaking Switzerland, Austria, or other places. Maybe half active? A third?

    Leave it to the Germans to solve problems like this.

  26. Kent Larsen Post author

    Great comment, Ryan. I had heard recently of LDSBooks.de, but I didn’t know how it worked. It does sound like an innovative model, one that could be used elsewhere.

    Are you German or somehow connected to this company? If so or if you can put me in contact with someone there who speaks English, could you e-mail me at kent [at] motleyvision [dot] org?

  27. JB Howick

    I’d like to underscore Sonia Pineda’s comments (#25). Sonia is President of Latin Voice Translations, and they’re publishing some of our books into Spanish. Latin Voice Translations (http://www.vozlatinasud.com) is acting as the publisher, while we act as “the author”, splitting a royalty from LVT between ourselves and the original author.

    It’s a model that we believe will work well since it substantially reduces the costs of moving a book from English to another language.

    However, Sonia is fighting the same marketing problems that most LDS publishers do, and a language barrier on top of that. She needs to find the Spanish-speaking members of the Church. I’m excited about the effort Sonia is making, and I want her to succeed. We include notices about her in our regular mailings to bookstores, but she could use more. If you are of Latin descent, or have Latin friends, please tell them about Libreria Voz Latina!

    Speaking generally, the U.S. Latin market is very, very large — and I can’t imagine that the Latin members of the Church are any less likely to read than any other. One of the benefits of the Church is its focus on education, which creates a higher-than-average literacy rate. I think the Latin LDS market is ready for growth.

  28. Kent Larsen Post author

    JB:

    While I agree with your comment in principle, my experience is that reading in most Latin countries is culturally not as important as it is in the U.S. In addition, immigrants are probably less likely to read as much because they have less disposable income and work more hours than groups that are more established in the US.

    Despite this, the market for Spanish-language materials in the US is huge and is the most developed non-English market in the US. There are now some 30 million spanish-speakers in the US (10% of the population).

    Unfortunately, we don’t know the crucial number for the LDS market: how many active adult LDS spanish-speakers are in the US and Canada? If the proportion is similar to the overall US, it could be as many as 200,000 to 300,000 people. Even if it is far less than this, I can’t imagine that the number is less than 50,000 people.

    Sounds like enough to jump-start spanish-language LDS publishing to me — if we can just figure out how to reach them.

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