Why is the AME Hymnal So Expensive?

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While visiting a Christian Bookstore yesterday I noticed that several hard-bound hymnals (National Baptist Convention 21st Century edition, Southern Baptist, etc.) were selling at a retail price ranging from $7.00 - $8.95. The last time I inquired with the Chief Church Organist in my church she informed me that the AME hymnal sells at a price of $25.00 - $28.00. Now considering most songs in our Christian faith transcend denominational preference I am somewhat at a loss for why the AME hymnal is 3 or 4 times greater in retail price compared to its alternative product. Maybe this is a Tallahassee phenomena but I would be interested in knowing from others if hymnbooks sell at different prices for different denominations. I grew up Baptist for all of my life until 1995 and the great hymns of the Christian Church are provided in mainstream denominational hymnbooks. It has been my experience the books only vary in terms of the key in which they are played. This made my singing transition to Methodism relatively easy. The only factor which would warrant the AME Hymnbook selling at such a higher price is a relatively higher production cost. However, if production costs are higher for AME hymn books this means that we are not utilizing cost-effective production technologies. If African Methodism seeks to enrich the spiritual lives of its members via song someone should reevaluate the current pricing strategy. Individuals and local AME churches should not be paying for a product at exorbitant prices. A reasonable "profit" is to be expected in any normal commercial transaction, however price gouging is antithetical to the letter and spirit of Christ's message. QED

-- Anonymous, March 31, 2002


That's interesting. I think that the prices of those other hymnals are remarkably low. I know of no other 800+ page, hardcover book that can be purchased for such a low price. Not even the Bible.

-- Anonymous, April 01, 2002

I cannot speak specifically to how the prices of our publications are determined, but only from my experiences as a musician. The special characters used in the publication of music helps to make the cost of music publication much more expensive than other kinds of publications, as does the alignment of these characters with the text being sung.

In their haste to publish it, the publishers of the first edition of the present Bicentennial Hymnal got much of this wrong. I suspect that persons who were not experienced musicians were quite embarrassed when they sat down at church and attempted to play some of these hymns in the wrong key signature or with the wrong accidentals if they had not previously discovered that the errors occurred. The result was the publishers had to eventually issue a revised edition, which I am sure, was expensive to do.

Our hymnal contain several selection which I am certain are not in the public domain. Also involved in the cost is the research of ownership and copyright which may involve the payment of fees, where royalty free permission has not been granted. Sometimes royalties must be paid. I suspect legal fees may also be involved to protect the church from any future lawsuits of copyright infringement. These may also include the use of some Scriptural verses, which come from biblical versions under copyright. All of the above and other which I do not know, must be considered when the pricing of this publication is determined. This is especially true when we remember that this particular publication contains over 800 individual selections of music, texts and rituals.

-- Anonymous, April 01, 2002

Bill, I purchase hymnals as gifts from the Publishing House. They are $16.50 + 13% shipping and handling. The books for the musicians (organists and pianists)might cost more. I might add that the staff at the Publishing House does an outstanding job of filling orders in a timely manner.

-- Anonymous, April 01, 2002

The online catalog of the AMEC Publishing House lists the AMEC Hymnal's item number and cost as - #1000-0066, $16.25.

If I have done it correctly the link is:     AMEC Publishing House

-- Anonymous, April 02, 2002

Many thanks to Barbara and Robert with the corrected prices for the AMEC hymnal. My errant prices were apparently a result of confusion between the price of the Discipline and the price of the hymnal. The difference in price of $10.00 - $12.00 is significant. Nonetheless, even with the corrected prices and adjusting for shipping and handling as Barbara notes, our hymnal is still 100%+ greater in value than that of the listed retail price for the new 21st century National Baptist hymnal. While these products are not perfect substitutes I still find this price disparity alarming. I also find it alarming that at least for where I live, distribution channels to obtain the hymnal via Christian bookstores are unavailable. The general manager of the bookstore told me that she cannot sell me an AME hymnal due to my denomination's policy. I suspect this "policy" is designed to eliminate the role of the middleman but it is counterproductive since many members have easier access to their local bookstores as opposed to calling the AMEC Publishing House and waiting the normal 3-5 days allowing for shipping. Since we are on this subject of church hymnals I saw on Amazon.com that the African American Heritage Hymnal is now available for online purchase. Is anyone using this hymnal in their churches? It sells for $16.50. Amazon.com also provides price discounts for bulk quantities of the National Baptist Hymnal which reduces the price by $1.00 per hymnal for purchases > 100. Are such bulk purchase discounts available thru the AMEC Publishsing House? QED

-- Anonymous, April 02, 2002

Brother Dickens,

Thirty years ago, I became a member of the AME Church after having been a Baptist all of my life. I'll never forget the pastor saying I needed to get a copy of the doctrine and discipline of the AME Church and a hymnbook. I could hardly wait for Monday so that I could get to the bookstore. How many bookstores did I go to? To my chagrin, I never found those two books at any bookstore. As a last resort, I went to the public library. No doctrine and discipline of the AME Church and certainly no hymn book can be found anywhere except at the AME publishing house or an AME Church or individual that has opened an AME book store.

Is there some reason why the AME Doctrine and Discipline is not in the public library? Can anyone donate a copy to the public library? What's the policy regarding the D&D or the hymnbook being in the public library? For over thiry years now, I've been trying to learn the AMEC and I'm finding out that that which I thought I knew, I know not. When my pastor told me to get a copy of the Methodist Polity by H. McNeil Turner, I thought, herein lies the explanation of all that's written in the D&D. But then you found out that not everyone interprets the D&D using the Polity as guide. I've said it before and it bears repeating. One of my pastor's and I must admit (my father in the ministry) said, "there's the discipline way, an AME way (traditional) and there's the pastor's way."

So, I've inclined my heart to learn more about Jesus. Teach me, Master, teach me to sing with a loud voice "I Love Thy Church, O God."

-- Anonymous, April 02, 2002

The local (Columbus) Cokesbury Bookstore (United Methodist) does carry the AME Hymnal, as well as hymnals of other non-Methodist denominations. I didn't look at the cost as I was not interested in purchasing another one.

-- Anonymous, April 02, 2002

I have read all of the comments about the AME Hymnal & the Discipline. I agree with one response, that you cannot find any AME material in the Church Supply stores. I live in Michigan, but I a native of Baltimore, Md. & my pastor there (Baptist, owns a Church Supply store & he cannot carry AME Products. I had been Baptist most of my life, I am now an AME member. I still need a discipline & Musician's Hymnal (I am also a 57 year veteran musician). I still play for choirs. I was told by my pastor that he would get me a hymnal, but then he sais he was waiting for the new edition to come out. My question, "When is it coming out?" I have been at Vernon 3 years as a musician (1 1/2 yrs) as a member. My 2nd question is, "Why doesn't AME open up some exclusive AME Stores as the United Methodist-Cokesbury; Baptist Book Store, etc.)?

Dr. Harriet Marie Robinson-Grigsby

-- Anonymous, November 06, 2002

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