Disciples News Service

Chalice Press considers alternatives to printing Chalice Hymnal

Message from Cyrus N. White, President and Publisher

There is often good news to share with you about what is happening and what we see God doing across the church from our perspective at Christian Board of Publication and Chalice Press. Today, however, I bring you the sad news that we are preparing for what may be the final printing of Chalice Hymnal in its current format.

First published in 1995, Chalice Hymnal has enjoyed sixteen years as one of the best hymnals available for congregational worship and individual devotions, enjoying popularity within and beyond the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Unfortunately, demand for Chalice Hymnal has fallen to the point where we can no longer sustain printed editions.

In its first year, Chalice Hymnal enjoyed purchases of more than 150,000 copies of the pew editions. In 2000, five years after first publication, congregations bought more than 25,000 copies of the pew editions. By the end of last year, demand had fallen more than 85% to well below 4,000 copies. We do not see this trend reversing, as it derives from long-term trajectories of congregational closings, declines in worship attendance, and permanent changes to worship methodology. These same factors have moved a number of denominational publishers to cancel or suspend plans to publish new hymnals. As close as Chalice Hymnal is to our hearts, and despite our best efforts, we simply do not receive enough orders to keep producing the print editions.

 In order to provide individuals and congregations with opportunity to buy Chalice Hymnal, we will accept orders for a final printing of the pew editions through September 15, 2011. That will allow us to deliver orders in time for Thanksgiving and Advent. We may print a small quantity above the orders we have in hand, but we may only go to press if we have a minimum order quantity necessary to make the printing viable (at least 3,000 to 5,000 copies). Individuals and congregations may order the hymnals at 1-800-366-3383 or at  ChalicePress.com.
 
This decision pertains only to the current print editions of Chalice Hymnal. Other alternatives include digital and other formats. We continue to explore these in light of the preferences and needs of congregations and individuals we serve. To say that there may be one more printing of Chalice Hymnal in its current form is not to say Chalice Hymnal will not continue to exist in ways that are useful, affordable, and sustainable.
 
We have done everything we can to keep Chalice Hymnal available in printed editions. Customer demand is still the most significant factor; if the hymnal were selling, printing it would not be an issue. Our planning has included the consideration of several alternatives. Among these are:
 
1. Print more hymnals to cover demand for several years.
We reject this because the opportunity costs of inventory are high – books waiting to be sold are simply cases of $20 bills sitting on shelves. There are ample other ways to use those dollars to advance Christian mission and serve people. Even accepting those costs, this option delays by only 1 – 2 years what appears to be the end of the lifecycle for print editions of Chalice Hymnal.
 
2. Print fewer hymnals to match demand and raise the price to cover costs.
This would likely set the price at $25 to $30 per hymnal. Purchasing hymnals is already a major purchase for most congregations. We would expect demand to decline further and faster at a higher price.
 
3. Sell the rights to publish Chalice Hymnal to another publisher or organization.
This may not be viable, since most of Chalice Hymnal is a collection of items we license from other copyright holders and to whom we pay a royalty for copies printed. We have permission to publish the collection as Chalice Hymnal, but we do not own most of the content.
 
4. Reduce the quality of production or shift to paperback.
Cheaper paper is often much thicker paper. This leads to significant issues such as making the hymnals difficult to hold or impossible to fit into pew racks. Going to paperback is an option to consider for the future, but the question to most congregations is whether to use a hymnal at all. 
 
As I noted at the beginning, each of the previous alternatives has to do with the current print editions of the Chalice Hymnal. Other alternatives involve digital and other formats. We continue to explore these in light of the preferences and needs of congregations and individuals we intend to serve. Saying that there may be only one more printing of Chalice Hymnal in its current format is not to say Chalice Hymnal will not exist in ways that are useful, affordable, and sustainable.
 
Many thanks for your encouragement and understanding,
Cyrus "Russ" N. White 
President and Publisher
CBP/Chalice Press/Lucas Park Books