Embracing the future: Deseret Book undergoes transition from frontier bookstore to digital innovator

Published: Monday, Dec. 10 2012 6:45 p.m. MST

"You trust their judgment. You have a very different relationship to the person who works in a bookstore than you do to the person who works at your supermarket or shoe store. You see these bookstores that have huge followings, do regular events, online events, author readings; they've built communities and it's very special."

Christensen has seen all that through the company's Time Out for Women series — an inspirational weekend event that offers thousands of women, LDS or not, an opportunity to share in a sense of womanhood and a love of God through listening to speakers and musical numbers.

"For us, Time Out for Women is a unique opportunity," said Christensen. "No question that it's a business venture for us, but it's much bigger than that. It helps us serve the mission of why we feel like we exist."

In its 10 years, the tour has rotated through more than 50 cities within the United States and Canada, averaging about 20 events a year. Globally, TOFW has had events in Australia and New Zealand and is hoping to branch out into webcasts for women who may never be able to make it to an actual event.

And while attendees can buy the presenters' and performers' books and CDs, the event is not "a book tour," Christensen emphasizes.

"The purpose of Time Out for Women, on the most basic level, is to provide a break from life for women," she said.

"The things we do there are to help them just recharge and fuel up again to go out and be better with their families, better in their communities, better in their responsibilities. And if we're not doing that, then Time Out for Women wouldn't have a reason to exist."

Expanding the reach

With the Orchestra at Temple Square playing softly in the background, famed broadcast journalist Walter Cronkite recounted the story of the 1914 Christmas miracle at Flanders Field. He shared how for two days amid the horrors of WWI, fighting ceased and men who had been enemies just days before buried their fallen peers, talked, prayed, and even played soccer together.

Then as that Christmas day drew to a close, the men returned to their trenches, most likely "reluctant to have the common ground between them become no man's land again," Cronkite said. "But even as the darkness fell … in the true spirit of Christmas, one voice, then another joined in, soon the whole world seemed to be singing, and for a brief moment, the sound of peace was a carol every soul knew by heart," he finished.

The poignant strains of "Silent Night" in English and German echoed through the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, first from soloists dressed as soldiers, and then from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Jana Erickson sat transfixed during the 2002 performance and immediately wanted to share what she'd seen.

"That was such a great story," Erickson, product director for Deseret Book and Shadow Mountain, remembers thinking. "It really should be a book."

Prior Christmas performances had been recorded and distributed on DVDs, but Cronkite's was the first that also became a book: "Silent Night, Holy Night," published by Shadow Mountain — a publishing imprint of Deseret Book aiming beyond the traditional LDS base.

"Part of our mission is to reach hundreds of millions of like-minded individuals and share light and truth," said Erickson. "These products help (us) do that. With a name like Walter Cronkite, it allows people who know him, but don't necessarily know who we are, to bump into us through these Christmas books."

Since Cronkite's book, which was so popular the company ran out of copies that year, Shadow Mountain has also published historian David McCullough's Christmas performance as "In the Dark Streets Shineth: A 1941 Christmas Eve Story," and just recently released the book, "Good King Wenceslas," as retold by actress Jane Seymour.

But Shadow Mountain isn't just known for its Christmas books. It has also published the New York Times best-selling "Fablehaven" series by Brandon Mull and "The Miracle of Freedom: 7 Tipping Points that Saved America," by brothers Chris Stewart and Ted Stewart.

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