Inflation and Religious Printing

By Cecil Willis

You probably are as tired of hearing about inflation as some of you have said you are of hearing about the “gracefellowship” subject, but whether we like it or not, it appears that both are here to stay. It appears that our national political leaders are going to continue to swing and sway to the siren song of “spend-our-way-to-prosperity” as long as anyone will dance to their tune. The economic prospect for the future of our country appears to be continuous and accelerating inflation, until our entire monetary structure crumbles into chaos. Meanwhile, we all must make the best of it and adapt to it, even while we make our own personal efforts to combat it.

But this article is not intended to be a discourse on inflation in general. We all already know most of the pertinent statistics about it. During the last two years, inflation has continued at the rate of about 10% per annum. At times, the rate has been found to be 15% per year. All of us see the jarring increases everytime we go into a grocery store, buy a new suit, repair an automobile, or visit our local dentist. We get hit with inflation every way that we turn.

Well . . . you are just about to be hit by it in one other area. I refer now to the increased costs connected with religious printing. As long as I have edited Truth Magazine, I have tried to operate it without its operation being done covertly, as though it were some deep, dark secret. When one asks me what the circulation of Truth Magazine is, I simply tell him. I might relieve your mind, at this point, by stating that I do not intend in this article to sneak up on your blind side and announce an additional price increase. But I would like to lay before you some of the facts connected with our religious printing efforts, which facts should be a help to you whenever we must increase our prices.

For ten years now, what printing I have had done or been responsible for having done, has been done by Economy Printing Concern of Berne, Indiana. Though I like the owners and their employees (they employ a hundred or more people), friendship only has not been the basis of our continued relationship. It simply hag been a matter of fact that Economy Printing Concern gave us a better price, or supplied us with publication capabilities we otherwise would not have, and in most instances, they have done both of these things for us. The Muselman brothers (Art and Carl) who own Economy Printing Concern have treated us wonderfully! (In case one of you Muselman brothers happens to read this article, I mean by that previous statement that you have not pressed us too hard when we owed you sizable sums of money!) It has been a pleasure to do business with people whom I can trust to deal fairly and honestly with us. We have sought to deal with them in the same manner. This ten year owner-purchaser relationship has been so satisfactory with us that we hope to see it continue for many years to come.

However, our friendship has not seemed to affect very much the cost of purchasing paper, hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of printing equipment, higher taxes, increases in wages, etc. Those increased costs simply have to be passed on to us periodically, and we in turn have to pass them eventually on to you, our customers. The price of the grade of paper which we mainly use increased more than 100% in 1973, and has increased about 10% more since the price increase was passed on to us January 30th. The price of printing Truth Magazine, our class literature, books, booklets, and tracts is tied into nationally published average costs on labor and paper. On January 30, 1974, our printing costs were increased 22.1%. That may not sound like too much of a cost increase, since it is about at the national average rate of inflation. But translated into another form, this price increase becomes much more vivid. It simply means that our total printing bill this year will be about $25,000 more than’ it would have been, if we had printed a similar amount of materials last year. $25,000 a year increase in prices means that we have an increase in our printing bill of about $500 per week, or about $100 per working day.

You may have noticed that a few months ago, the prices on the Cogdill Foundation cloth and paperback books were increased somewhat. We had no other alternative. Month before last (I do not have accumulated yet the figures for the past month), Truth Magazine lacked $800 bringing in enough money just to pay the printing, mailing, and postage bills for that month. This $800 one-month loss included nothing for salary payments to anyone, nothing for the lease on our newly built store building, nothing for equipment costs and operational expenses, and nothing for general operational expenses.

Here are some precise figures for you to think about. It costs us 12% plus, to print every copy of every issue of Truth Magazine. As a subscriber, you receive 50 issues of the paper annually. Printing, mailing, and postage costs alone cost us $6.36 per year per subscriber. The Cogdill Foundation now is paying me on a half-time basis, and three people are employed to work in the bookstore, which work entails the maintenance of a weekly corrected mailing list, making new plates for addressing, and running a mailing tape. We would have about $1 per subscriber per year upon which to operate, if all our subscriptions were sold on a $7.50 per year basis. However, about one-third of our subscriptions are sold in groups of 10, 20, or more. In group sale plans, subscriptions are sold for $6 per year. We therefore lose money on each one of these. At all times we carry 200-300 foreign subscriptions, most of which are never paid. For instance, we have at all times one hundred, or more, Filipino brethren on our mailing list, along with a goodly number in Nigeria and several other foreign countries. We advertise our foreign subscriptions at $9 per year, but we very seldom receive payment for these foreign subscriptions. I think we have been paid two out of five years for the Filipino brethren’s subscriptions. But it costs us $11.86 per year to send a subscription to the Philippines. Here is how that figure is arrived at: printing costs $6.36 per year subscription; required mailing envelopes cost us $1.50 per year per subscription; and foreign postage rates cost us $4.00 per year per subscription. Its hard to make money when you “sell” for $9 a subscription that costs you $11.86 just to print and mail! Even the “volume” for some reason does not seem to help this circumstance!! But the foreign preachers usually are the ones who need the paper’ the most, yet who cannot afford to pay for it. So we lose about $3,000 per year by sending these foreign subscriptions.

Some have complained about our $10 per volume price on bound volumes. I do not like it either! But here are the figures on bound volumes: printing 50 issues costs us $6.36, and binding costs us $3.50 per volume. So we have $9.86 in each bound volume, without counting anything for salaries, overhead, truck operation, or leasing costs.

Every sane business man would say, “Then why do you continue to publish a paper upon which you lose money?” That’s a good question, but the answer is simple: We merely happen to think that Truth Magazine does a lot of brethren good, when they receive it and read it. The fellow who goes into the religious publishing business in order to make a profit either has a few holes in his head, or else he is going to be forced to cater to the general religious public and must therefore sell everything from crucifixes, on up or down. And some brethren scruple not to do this. This, however, we refuse to do. This is why we do not operate a “walk-in” type store downtown in Marion. Instead, our business is nearly 100% mail-order business. There are some religious items which we simply cannot sell, in good conscience, and we would much rather sink financially than to compromise our convictions.

Further, to illustrate what inflation has done and is yet doing to us and others in a similar business, let me just relate what has happened to the cost of printing Walking With God (which formerly was known as Journeys Trhough the Bible). When we purchased this series in 1969, we negotiated a contract printing price, with built-in escalation clauses. Presently we are using a 52.9% cost increase factor. The increase in printing costs therefore have averaged more than 10% per year for the past five years.

We have done, and shall continue to do, our best to keep prices as reasonable as possible. At the same time, it would be irresponsible of us to operate Truth Magazine financially in such a way inevitably to portend its demise. The business done by the bookstore must subsidize the publishing of Truth Magazine substantially every month. I have never been able to prose that our bookstore netted as much as 10%, at the end of any year of its operation. This is why we entirely eliminated discounts to individual customers, including the Editor of this journal. In fact; I think I am the bookstore’s best customer! I get the same kind of monthly hills from them that some of you get. I, at this very moment, am paying $50 per month in order to pay off some books I have ordered, and have on order books that will cost about $300 more. If we offered some preachers a 10% discount, they would be highly insulted. Some are just sure that there is net 40% profit in every book! And they are just as surely wrong about the matter! In order for the bookstore to help to defray the losses incurred through the publication of Truth Magazine, and some of our other publications, we therefore; give no discounts to any individual purchaser. Perhaps there are some other bookstores that can give every preacher a 25% or 30% discount, and stay in business. If so, then I say, “More power to them!” But we cannot do so. General book price discounting has bankrupted some of our brethren’s publication efforts, and we do not want to see that happen to Truth Magazine,

Inflation has hurt us badly, and we really have not passed on to you, our customers, the real additional cost of these inflationary price increases. Though we; have no timeschedule in mind, it appears that brethren might as well be getting their minds acclimated to paying $10 a year for a sixteen page weekly journal, That $10 a year sounds prohibitively high, doesn’t it? I do not like the sound of it either. But if you will notice; there are several monthly religious journals that now sell for $5 to S7 per year. If a journal sells its sixteen’ page monthly for $5 per year, then it would follow that Truth Magazine should be charging four times that much per year for our sixteen page weekly, and we throw in “two-color printing” to boot.

Approximately half of all our items in both our Walking With God and Truth In Life series are either “loss items,” or “break-even” items. If we looked at our publications strictly from a monetary point of view, we would never publish another tract. But we are trying to supply materials and services that will be useful to brethren as they try to increase the effectiveness of their teaching efforts.

Pardon this “shop-talk,” but these are some things I thought it would be good for all of you to know in order that you might better understand some of the changes and price increases we are forced to make, from time to time. We intend to try to provide you as much good materials and services as possible for as little cost as possible. But at the same time, we must conduct our business affairs so that we will survive as a product-producing and service-selling business enterprise. In other words, we hope by the grace of God, to stay around for a while to service our customers with the kinds of materials and services that they need. The accomplishment of this objective necessitates that we keep ourselves sound financially, and to do this, it appears that price increases rather frequently will continue to be necessary. You may now borrow my handkerchief to wipe that tear out of your eye. But please do continue to patronize Truth Magazine Bookstore. We will do our best to provide you with prompt service and suitable materials to aid you in your teaching efforts.

Truth Magazine, XVIII:41, p. 3-5
August 22, 1974