Noteworthy Decisions from the April 2008 Board meeting in Paris

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Mo Siegel

By Mo Siegel, Secretary of Urantia Foundation

In liaison with the article "The Revelation Enters the 21st Century", the following report highlights relevant information and decisions from Urantia Foundation's April 2008 Board meeting in Paris. The areas under discussion were: the physical book, book covers, North American book store distribution, European book distribution, translations, digital books, audio books, index, and the internet/ www.urantia.org.

The Physical Book

For the past five years, sales of the English edition of The Urantia Book published by Urantia Foundation have steadily declined. We attribute the decrease in sales to expanding Internet access to the teachings, the disappearance of many specialty book retailers, increasing competition for shelf space with decreasing inventory levels at chain book stores, multiple publishers, the younger generations turning to multimedia instead of books, and the need to make our book cover more appealing to spiritual book shoppers who are unfamiliar with the book. During 2006 and 2007, our sales dropped substantially enough that the board decided to make improvements to maintain our retail bookstore leadership and simultaneously grow our sales to internet book providers.

The Urantia Book 2008 Hardcover and Softcover designsNew Book Covers

Nearly every decade since The Urantia Book's initial publication, Urantia Foundation has needed to redesign the book cover to accommodate the changing tastes of spiritual book shoppers. About 12 months ago Urantia Foundation hired three book-design firms to submit designs for a new book cover. After reviewing about 25 different designs from the firms, we took the three designs we liked best, the Uversa Press book cover, and the Foundation's current cover and tested them in the market.

Approximately 700 open-minded, educated, age appropriate, spiritually searching book buyers in North America were asked to review the five covers and answer a series of questions. The shoppers prioritized their favorite book covers and explained what the various covers told them about the book. The results of this study were that two of the new book covers attracted strong interest from potential readers. These covers conveyed the message that the book was about God, spirituality, the earth and universe, Jesus, and themselves. After looking at the new covers, shoppers felt that the book was important, likable, interesting, and possibly worth buying. When studying the new covers, shoppers rejected the notion that the book was boring, cultish, new agey, irrelevant, or not their kind of book.

Since two covers tested so well, we decided to use both covers, the most popular for the soft cover and the slightly upscale cover on the hardbound book. Both books, designed specifically for the North American market will be available in June 2008. For those who prefer the current cover, they are still available for purchase.

The Board resolved to use the new book covers on all future printings of translations, unless representatives from a particular country prefer a different cover.

North American Bookstore Distribution

Over the next few years, Urantia Foundation will pursue various means to keep the English edition of The Urantia Book available in bookstores in North America. We have plans to have the book moved from the New Age/Occult section, which is currently the location of the book in many bookstores, into the Spiritual or Inspirational section. We are looking at improved ways to do business as a small single-title publisher in a world dominated by multinational, billion-dollar book publishers.

In search of efficiently priced distribution channels that are sustainable, a small team from Urantia Foundation attended the North American Book Expo in Los Angeles at the end of May.

European Distribution

For years, the European reader community has requested increased responsibilities. At the April 2008 meeting, the European team presented a proposal to assume the responsibility for book activities in Europe. Subject to the Board's approval of a business plan, the creation of a fiscal entity, the registration of the entity, and the approval of a contract, the president of Urantia Foundation is authorized to execute a one-year, renewable contract. This European entity will print, store, and distribute books, as well as conduct other relevant business related to The Urantia Book throughout Europe.

Urantia Foundation European Board Members in Paris
European Board Members in Paris
Back Row: Christian Ruch (Switzerland), Jay Peregrine (Executive Director, Urantia Foundation, USA), Henk Mylanus (France), Olga López, (Associate Trustee, Urantia Foundation, Spain), Seppo Kanerva (Trustee, Urantia Foundation, Finland), Werner Sutter (Germany)
Front Row: Irmeli Ivalo-Sjölie (Associate Trustee, Urantia Foundation, Finland), George Michelson-Dupont (Trustee, Urantia Foundation, France), Claire Mylanus (Associate Trustee, Urantia Foundation, France), Seppo Niskanen (Finland)

Translations

Twenty-first century globalization means providing The Urantia Book in as many translations as is financially and logistically practical. In keeping with Urantia Foundation's commitment to translations, the Board voted that the Estonian, Hungarian, and Swedish translations be printed as soon as the translation teams complete their work. We expect these printings to occur in the near future. The Board also voted to grant the European team's request to print and sell, for distribution in Spain only, El libro de Urantia as revised and corrected by the Sevillian team. As always, the translations will be available on the Internet.

Digital Books

For a number of years digital-book readers have become increasingly common. Recently two new digital readers, the Sony Reader and Amazon's Kindle Wireless, have transformed technology into what may become the next generation of books. If you have never seen this new generation of digital book readers, you will be amazed at the user-friendly innovation. Amazon claims:

"Revolutionary electronic-paper display provides a sharp, high-resolution screen that looks and reads like real paper." A book can be auto-delivered wirelessly, whether you are in the back of a taxi, at the airport, or in bed, in less than one minute. Each digital book reader can hold hundreds of books. With up-and-coming technology in mind, the Board approved the development of The Urantia Book for the Sony/Kindle digital-type book readers.

Audio Books

Urantia Foundation currently makes available an audio version of The Urantia Book. The recording, read by a group of professional, book-recording artists, is available for purchase from Urantia Foundation or as a free download from the Web.

However, with the popularity of audio books downloaded from the Web, there is a new technology that compresses books, so they can be sent in small-file sizes and at high speeds (for example, Audible.com or ITunes). Because of the need for compressed audio versions, the Board approved the development of a compressed format for The Urantia Book, which will be placed on its Website and sold to electronic book providers.

Index

Work continues on updating the index created by Anna Rawson and Edith Cook, who were members of the Forum. Both women worked on the index for more than a decade and did a stellar job considering their work pre-dated computers. We plan to publish the index as a separate volume and as an Internet tool for Web users.

The Internet and www.urantia.org

Twenty-five years ago, you could guesstimate the spread of the book's teachings by counting the number of books sold and the number of study group attendees. Today, the best way to estimate Urantia Book exposure is to study Web- traffic statistics.

Three dedicated Urantia Book Web sites report reasonably high levels of visitation, often exceeding 300,000 unique visitors per month.

At the April 2008 meeting, the Board spent considerable time discussing Urantia Foundation's Web site. During certain months, the number of visits to the Foundation's Web site often exceeds 150,000 per month. The Web statistics reveal that those visitors come from all corners of the globe. To all intents and purposes, www.urantia.org has become the face of the Revelation for thousands of spiritually-searching souls. It has become a reference point for the media and a first line of defense in addressing potential attacks on the book and its teachings. Given this context, the Board has voted to provide additional time, money, and talent to meet the increasing global demands.

In the March 2008 edition of Urantia Foundation News Online, we reported the Board's decision to systematically monitor, improve, and rectify statements about, and descriptions of, The Urantia Book, appearing on important Internet Web sites.

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