To our partners in the gospel,
I am writing to express deep appreciation for your continued support of our ministry and to update you on our current challenges. The Westminster Bookstore ended its fiscal year on June 30, 2013 facing a very significant financial loss. The bookstore is a wholly owned ministry of Westminster Theological Seminary, and, were it not for your gracious response to the Seminary’s financial appeal last Christmas, the Seminary would have had no choice but to close the bookstore’s doors. These donations enabled critical Seminary operations — ongoing educational programs and scholarships — to continue, and also provided time for the administration to consider the future of the bookstore.
Our great challenge is that we continue to exist in an environment where Amazon — the industry leader — is allowed by Wall Street to function without regard for their short-term profitability. Some of you may be aware that Amazon recently reported a $7 million loss on $15.7 billion of revenue. Next quarter, they are forecasting a loss of between $65 and $440 million. Despite this, their stock is up about 20% this year, indicating investor willingness to sustain Amazon’s loss-leading business model. As I ponder economic history, I can’t name another 21-year old company with which Wall Street has been this patient.
Amazon’s results show that, despite their buying power, technology, management skill, and income from non-book products and services, they are unable to post a profit given their current pricing model. This reality is made all the more striking given that competitive forces like Borders and independent bookstores have gone out of business while Barnes & Noble and other retailers struggle to carve out an existence. It is important to emphasize that we do not believe that Amazon’s business practices are necessarily inappropriate or immoral, but that they are — by virtue of their size and scope — creating an economically challenging environment that has significant consequences for the promotion of Christian books.
Our prayer at the bookstore is for the Lord to sustain our ministry as long as we are useful to His Church. Our conviction is that without alternatives to Amazon, important gospel-centered and biblically faithful resources would not receive the attention they deserve, or even worse, would not be published at all. Our ambition is to increase the reach and demand for theologically sound books so that publishers and authors are encouraged to produce and invest in like-minded projects. Examples of projects where the Lord used our bookstore as the primary tool to drive significant national distribution include:
- A Praying Life by Paul Miller
- Dispatches from the Front DVD series by Frontline Missions
- What is the Mission of the Church? by Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert
- Covenantal Apologetics by K. Scott Oliphint.
- Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Butterfield.
Moving forward, we are working hard to minimize costs while continuing to deliver excellent selection, speed, and customer service. The Lord has encouraged us in the beginning months of this fiscal year with modest profits, and it is our ambition to achieve break-even status by next fiscal year.
Thanks again for your support of our ministry. We deeply value your continued partnership. If you do have occasion to pray for us, we would appreciate prayer for the following:
- Faithful discernment as we review and assess a variety of books and resources.
- Operating wisdom as we continue to drive efficiencies and invest in opportunities for superior customer experience and service.
- Guidance for the Seminary’s senior administration and Board as they continue to monitor the economic environment and the bookstore’s viability.
From The Old Guys Blog:
Next time you are looking to purchase a book consider buying through WTS. They generally are priced slightly lower than Amazon and their packaging is done with great care. Find them online at www.wtsbooks.com.
If you have room in your budget after supporting your Church, know that a donation of any size will continue to make a material difference to the Seminary. Let’s help keep this wonderful bookstore in business! Make a donation here.