Paladin kills off part of its product line

Has Boulder, CO-based Paladin Press – the same Paladin that once published books such as The Poor Man’s James Bond and How to Kill – remade itself into a kinder, gentler marketer? Well, sort of.

The controversial publisher/cataloger, which sells books and videos on self-defense, survivalism, martial arts, and weaponry, dropped 87 book titles – which had accounted for about 10% of its sales – from its product line in September 1999, following the August passage by Congress of S. 606. The bill made it illegal for companies to knowingly distribute information about the use or manufacture of explosives to anyone who plans to use the information for an illegal activity.

“We removed all titles that would be considered in violation of the bill,” says marketing director Tina Mills. In addition to pulling all its books about explosives, the company scaled back significantly, according to Mills, its offerings in the “Exotic Weapons” section of the catalog. “Paladin is not willing to go through another lawsuit,” she says.

The lawsuit in question was filed by the families of three Maryland murder victims. They charged that Paladin’s book Hit Man: A Technical Manual for Independent Contractors enabled the man convicted of the murders to carry out the 1993 murders. Paladin settled the federal lawsuit last May. As part of its multimillion-dollar settlement, Paladin agreed to cease publishing and selling Hit Man.

On the whole, Paladin’s customers – 90% of whom are male, with an average age of 33 – have taken the reduction in titles in stride. “Some long-time customers accused us of selling out for dropping the explosives titles,” says editorial director John Ford, “but the majority recognized that there is a big difference between selling out and looking out.”

To compensate for the loss of revenue from the deleted titles, Paladin, which mails six times a year and has a circulation of 750,000, has raised prices as much as $2 on some of its books, Mills says. “The overall price increases amounted to about 10%.”

Though Paladin views the dropping of these titles as a setback, “it’s business as usual,” Ford says. “We have driven on with the remaining books and videos that have always been in our catalog, which still sells more than 700 titles.”