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Books/Deck Combos....WHY?

Thread originally posted on the Aeclectic Tarot Forum on 06 Jan 2003, and now archived in the Forum Library.

Ophiel  06 Jan 2003 
Irrate customer here.

I just don't see why some of the Tarot deck publishers insist on publishing new decks with accompanying books that explain the symbols, the author, the idea. By "insist," I mean by making that if you want the deck, you buy the book. Many of us have a shelf already dedicated to Tarot books (and some of us, entire bookcases, or rooms, or wings of our personal libraries!)

I am interested in the deck, the deck itself. If I want to know more, and a book is available, I just might buy it, but at least it would be MY choice. When we buy art, we aren't required to buy accompanying books that explain that artist's 'meaning.' The music industry does the same thing with instructional books, forcing the consumer to buy an accompanying CD that the consumer may not even want.

Don't most card readers go with their gut level feeling anyway, when reading the cards? When I look at the books I was forced to buy to get the deck, I see not books I want to read, but wasted money that could have been more decks in my horde. In fact, the only book/deck combo I bought in recent history (the last twenty years) that was actually helpful to me was the Alchemical Tarot, a deck focusing quite a bit on esoteric symbols.

Not all deck artists even know what they are doing. It is not mandatory (or necessary) to be a great esotericist/symbolist to make a great deck of cards.

All of these decisions are made behind closed doors and doing the logical thing to protest these actions (refuse to buy the combos) doesn't help anyone. What it does do, however, is make me think really hard before I buy the combo kits, if I really NEED that deck. And usually, I can say 'nope.' How about we pass some World Court legislation that makes it a law that all tarot publishers must also offer the decks alone (and at a proportionately reduced cost.)

I'm grabbing my clipboard and will start gathering signatures in my local area. Please join in! 

purplelady  06 Jan 2003 
Sorry, I disagree. I aLways purchase the deck/book Set if it's available. It just somehow seems more complete and nice. And I do usually read or at least refer to the book , perhaps along with other books , if I'm actually going to read with the deck. In fact , it bothers me if I have a deck and no companion book! It feels incomplete. Especially if I know there Is a companion book out there!
I agree that it would be great IF three choices were Always available. That is - to buy just the deck , just the book , or the complete Set. Obviously that isn't always the case. Take the LoScarabeo decks for instance, aren't they usually just the deck and a LWB ? The Llewellyn decks are usually a deck/book set. U.S. Games can be either way. I think the publishing companies are trying to publish what they think people want ( translation - will buy) and that is sets. I read that somewhere, on one of the threads about publishing. So , while I agree it would be nice to always have the option of just buying the deck, I think it would be frustrating and more complicated when your favorite company or stores runs out of the deck say but only has the book in stock. It's so much simpler to just make it a set only! 

Ophiel  06 Jan 2003 you might guess, I don't agree with you.

I think the consumer is entitled to choice. How would you like it if you could ONLY buy pet food if it came with a food bowl, and you couldn't buy the food alone?

What you are saying is you like the marketing as is. You even said it would be "better" if we had choices, but you aren't going to grab a clipboard and petition for signatures to get any tarot packaging laws passed.

Tarot people have different approaches and needs. That the marketing scheme (Book/deck combo) works for you is fine, but what about me? I have less choices.

As for your comment about books on the shelf with no decks, that is a purchasing problem and can be easily adjusted.

Thanks for your comments. 

Jeannette  06 Jan 2003 
For what it's worth, both U.S. Games Systems and Llewellyn make their decks available separately, even if they offer a deck/book set for the tarot. It may be that wherever it is that you're buying your decks from has decided not to stock the decks without the books, for whatever reason.

Lo Scarabeo hasn't generally done deck/book sets, but I believe their new deck/book set, "The Fey Tarot," is available as a deck only. In Europe, the deck is available without the book. Their gold-foil Visconti deck, released as a deck/book set in North America, can also be purchased without the book.

Other companies that publish deck/book sets are usually book publishers, not deck publishers. Since their primary line of products is books, it would make sense that their decks would include them. I rather expect that from their point of view, the book is the reason that people buy the product. Not that it would be a correct point of view, but from a book-publisher's standpoint, why would they print a tarot deck by itself? That's not the type of product they generally sell.

-- Jeannette 

Khatruman  06 Jan 2003 
Originally posted by Ophiel
I think the consumer is entitled to choice. ... You even said it would be "better" if we had choices, but you aren't going to grab a clipboard and petition for signatures to get any tarot packaging laws passed.
Ophiel, please realize that you are dealing with the marketing of a product, which is not governed by laws necessarily as it is by customer demand. Unless you sell a product that is a necessity to people, governments are not generally going to come in and require a company by law to sell a product in some way that they have not decided to do. Of course if you get a petition and take it to a major publisher, like Llewellyn or U.S. Games, and they see that there is a huge market contingent who would like this, then they will start offering the options because it makes good business sense to them. However, as Jeanette/Lori pointed out, US Games and Llewellyn do offer separate decks, so it comes down to the distributor's choice to stock both options. For instance, the Lord of the Rings tarot is offered as a deck-only, as well as deck and book, and I was able to buy the deck only because it was stocked. I know there are several other decks that offer the same.

I do agree that it makes good sense to offer the decks only, and the publishers generally have made this possible, but it seems that only a minority of tarot buyers choose the deck-only option since it is generally not carried by distributors. Rather than petition, it looks like you may need to request more buyers buy deck-only, or find a distributor willing to offer you deck-only options.


purplelady  06 Jan 2003 
I never said that choice isn't good. I agree that the widest possible choice is the best . The problum is I don't think it's practical, or will work out the best in real life. If Every deck was available as 1) just the deck , 2) just the companion book , and 3) the full set, the store or company would now have to worry about always keeping All these 3 items for every deck in stock! Someone is going to end up dissatisfied. Realistically , items run out of stock , aren't always available on the shelf or for order. Some people will want just the deck , others will want the set , but how many people want to purchase Only the companion book? The store, company, publisher, has to create and stock what they feel will satisfy the majority of buyers most of the time. 

Dark Inquisitor  06 Jan 2003 
I think the point is for us to spend 36.00 instead of 18.00.


Emily  06 Jan 2003 
I also tend to buy book/deck sets or try to get the book later. I like to read the stories behind the cards, get the view of the artist/creator.

Some of the decks like the Spiral, V/R, Ancient Egyptian and the Celtic Dragon have really good books with them. Some other books like the Crow's Magick, Enchanted are ok too.
I don't buy books for the Straight clone decks like Robin Wood, Diamond, Hanson Roberts because I have R/W books although I do like to read other authors views on the symbolism in the cards.

But yes when possible I do like to have the book to accompany the deck but I too wish they sold some decks on their own. :) (They would be cheaper then too, more decks to buy :D ) 

RiccardoLS  06 Jan 2003 
It seem that market research say that a deck with a companion book sells better than the deck only option. That, not considering the higher price of a kit edition.
And while the "deck only" option really make sense, it is not so for the "book only". Very very few of the customer that took the deck only would get back to get the book. The stores knows that and would never take books in stock (and probably very few deck only, unless it's a bestseller or a large store). I think it was what Purplelady was saying.

You see, the true customer of a Publisher is not the Tarot enthusiast, but it's the store manager.


Jeannette  06 Jan 2003 
Originally posted by RiccardoLS
You see, the true customer of a Publisher is not the Tarot enthusiast, but it's the store manager.

Very true, from the publisher/distributors' point of view. Resellers (store managers and the like) are the ones who pay the publishers. Of course, the end-customer is, in turn, the one that pays the reseller, so there is some motivation for the reseller to be responsive to customer needs. On the other hand, I suppose it's also true, especially with a "bricks-and-mortar" business (which Tarot Garden is not; we're strictly Internet-based) that one drives demand by what one supplies. If a bricks-and-mortar business puts a deck-only on the shelf, that's what people will buy because that's what they're offering; if they put out a deck/book set, people will buy that. Special-ordering may be possible, but it's a slower and more involved process for everyone involved. At least in the U.S., where we generally tend toward "instant gratifcation" when we can get it, it's easier to buy what's there than to ask for what's not.

Having said that, I might note that between Lo Scarabeo, Llewellyn, and U.S. Games, there are over 250 tarots in-print from those three publishers alone. A good one-half to two-thirds of those are available both as a deck only, and a deck/book set. (Also as book-only, for that matter.) Lori and I began the process of trying to stock the full line of Lo Scarabeo/Llewellyn/USG products over a year ago (both decks-only and deck/book sets); we're not quite there yet after 14 months, and we're a tarot specialty business! Imagine how difficult it would be for the average bricks-and-mortar bookstore or metaphysical shop to stock them all, along with all of the other products that they want/need to offer!

-- Jeannette 

Keslynn  06 Jan 2003 
I agree with the concept of having as much choice as possible, but as Jeannette pointed out, that's pretty hard for a store to do. Yay for the internet! ;) I do, however, think that it's best for some decks to come with a book. I'm thinking along the lines of the highly specialized concept decks. For example, I never would have begun to understand ECR's Witches Tarot without purchasing her companion books. Also, historical decks like the Minchiate (Brian Williams) and the Visconti Gold are better with books, IMO, so the reader can get the full background on historical decks and the differences in symbolism. Another example that's already been mentioned is the Alchemical. While the pictures can be read intuitively (well, some of them), you really need the book to understand the whole concept unless you by chance have a background in alchemy.

Personally, I think the mini-kits by Llewellyn are a nice compromise. My only problem is that the Nigel Jackson really needs a whole book to fully explore his awesome ideas. Oh well.

I don't buy a lot of companion books if I have the choice. But there is a reason that some decks should be sold as a complete package.

:) Kes 

Shadow Wolf  06 Jan 2003 
I like to buy just the deck. Most decks come with a little booklet inside to explain what each of the cards is. I certainly would rather spend $18.00 than $36.00, and I also find that just the deck is much easier for travel purposes.

I always feel like I have to bring the book along if it's a set. I have a few decks that have books, but I don't see much difference in the explanations from the books and the explanations of the booklets enclosed the other decks.

Is this making any sense at all !!!!

Sometimes I tend to ramble. 

Ophiel  06 Jan 2003 
Thanks for all your input. Really. However, it still doesn't make sense to me, being forced to buy a book I don't want. Most of the people responding like the books, so of course you're blood pressure isn't sky-rocketing.

Frank Sinatra told me to do it my way. Look where it got him.

I have decided to call it quits with Tarot. Yes, I'm selling all my decks and investing in Magic the Gathering cards. They are quite attractive and I checked, and I don't have to buy a microwave oven or anything in order to buy packs of cards.

Ophiel ;) 

rota  06 Jan 2003 
"Magic - the Gathering"... ?


You're kidding, right? ... (quizzical, concerned look)

you see, I'm with you on this question. If I want the deck, I'd rather buy just the deck. I'm sure I can find a book at the local stores or on the net if I want the book associated with it. I think that in most cases, the books accompanying most currently available decks are simply reiterations of what every other book on the Tarot has to say. The most in-depth books are not necessarily associated with a particular version of the Tarot; they're treatises on Tarot as a whole.

I think this whole deck/book combination is a marketing gimmick aimed at gift buyers; it's certainly of questionable benefit to Tarot people.

(hm. I wonder if there's a Magic - the Gathering Tarot...?) 

tarotbear  06 Jan 2003 
Having been around this bush I want to add my input.

US Games Systems, Llewellyn, etc will all tell you the same thing: A BOOK AND DECK SET SELLS BETTER. I was told this directly by US Games when I inquired about developing a deck. The first thing they asked if there was a companion book. They were not interested if there wasn't one.

Remember folks, it's a matter of the publisher. If someone came up with a new concept deck "The Pineapple Upside-down Cake tarot" and it was 78 images of cakes with no one would buy the deck. Period. It needs a book to help it along. The book/deck combo is a strong selling point, especially to new readers, or people buying decks for someone interested in tarot who has no idea what Tarot is meant to be. Marketing is a major thing for a publishing company.

Down the road, somewhere, the book and deck will be separated and sold separately. But not until a profit is made. The book and deck separately will sell higher than the set together to offset the cost of printing the boxes. 

Khatruman  06 Jan 2003 
Originally posted by Ophiel

Frank Sinatra told me to do it my way. Look where it got him.

I have decided to call it quits with Tarot. Yes, I'm selling all my decks and investing in Magic the Gathering cards.
Ophiel, don't you think you are suffering from selective hearing? Yes, there have been posts about people liking books, but several people, even those in the retailing business (i.e. Jeanette/Lori), have mentioned that many decks are available as deck-only options. It is just not as popular for people to buy them. Forgive us for not having your base of knowledge and wanting to get insites from the deck creators. This means simply that it isn't as convenient for you to get them your way, not impossible. Petitioning and wanting to impose laws on retailers to sell them the way you want them is no answer. Accept that it will take a little more legwork on your part to get what you want the way you want it. Do not expect the industry to change for your whims.

However, who am I to wish to change your decisions. I believe it is unfortunate because you seem a very intelligent and knowledgeable tarotist. I see Magic, though it may be elaborate and created with intelligence, as not being time tested, and you may find an unfortunate feeling of having made a decision on impulsive emotion rather than careful thought. Take your favorite cards and find out what they tell you.


Insomnia Turtle  06 Jan 2003 
Ophiel, I totally agree with you! Why should anyone have to buy a deck with some book they'd never read? I could see it if they were actually sold at a reasonable price, but I've seen some of these so called "special packages" ranging from 35-75 dollars when they could get the deck alone for 18-20 on the net! Talk about high markup! I know that tarot cards are considered a specialty item, but that's just crazy! I just cannot afford paying that much.

I am one of those "unfortunate" people who do not own a credit card and, therefore, cannot buy from the internet. Does that mean that I must be punished for it? When I asked around a bit, some of the stores in my nearby area even refuse to order just the deck itself. Why??? They know that they have a guaranteed sale and I'm even willing to pay for it before they order it, so why not just order it for me? Their answer? "It doesn't come without the book". If it doesn't come without the book then why do I see it come without the book on the net? Some people are just too greedy!

But, then again, I seem to be one of the few people who are really bothered by this, so what does my opinion count for? 

Jeannette  06 Jan 2003 
Originally posted by Insomnia Turtle
But, then again, I seem to be one of the few people who are really bothered by this, so what does my opinion count for?

Insomnia: Like all others on these forums, your opinion counts for a lot. However, I question the knowledge of the retailers you are working with. Exactly which decks are you trying to purchase sans book? If you are working with booksellers, keep in mind that such people's expertise is most likely limited to books. As such, they may not know that many decks are available without the books, and/or the distributors they work with may limit their choices to only items with books. There are literally hundreds upon hundreds of tarots worldwide that are in-print, and available without having to buy a book with them. How many such decks do you want?

For those that come only as a deck/book set, I reiterate: these are generally published by book publishers, not by deck publishers. If it weren't for the book, the decks wouldn't be published at all. Not because the book company wants to force you to buy a book with a deck per se, but because from a book publisher's point-of-view, there's absolutely no point in publishing such a product if it's not a book.

I agree that it's unfortunate that a tarot-buyer should be required to buy a book that they do not want, as I think most people here (even the ones who like the books) would agree. No one's disagreeing with your basic gripe. However, to be frank, it seems a bit short-sighted to me to eschew all tarots simply because a few book publishers happen to include tarot decks with a few of their books. There are really and truly more tarots published today and made available without books than most people could ever hope to buy and own. If the one deck you want happens to be one of the ones that is sold only with a book, then I'd suggest checking eBay, where there are plenty of people selling cheap, used tarot decks that have lost their book somewhere along the line.

-- Jeannette

[p.s. - insomnia: not all internet businesses require customers to pay only by credit card. at Tarot Garden, we're more than happy to take money orders, personal checks, and even foreign currencies under certain conditions.] 

Trish  07 Jan 2003 
Well ... I like the books. :D

My Goddess Tarot had a really nice companion workbook that was sold separately. I picked that up, and it's been really useful and nice.

As for card/book sets sold all together, I think it's useful for those people who want to get into Tarot. It's also really helpful with an "untraditional" deck, I would think.

But on the other hand, I suppose there's nothing wrong with wanting the option to get either the cards or the book. ;) It'd save a bit of money, anyway! hehe! 

Jewel  07 Jan 2003 
Originally posted by Insomnia Turtle I am one of those "unfortunate" people who do not own a credit card and, therefore, cannot buy from the internet. Does that mean that I must be punished for it?

Although most internet businesses only accept credit cards there are some that do accept checks or money orders. Tarot Garden is one such place ... hope this helps you out with future purchases. 

dolphingirl  07 Jan 2003 

I would have to say there are times when I really wish that I could buy just the deck. It would be really nice to be able to then pick up the book seperatly if you decide you like the deck enough to want the book. Also some of the books are so light on "new " information for the person that has read a few tarot books it can be frustrating.

Having said that, my biggest gripe eith the sets is that there is no box for the deck itself alone. I get super frustrated with not having a box, it makes it harder to take the deck with you when you go out. When I put my decks in a bag then I can never find the one I want quickly. Bags don't protect the cards as well as a nice box. Also if i go and buy boxes for all my decks they take up so much room cause there never the exact right size. I get very frustrated.

I tend to buy the deck and book seperatly even if they are also sold as a set, that way I am sure to get a box for the deck and often I save a bit of money from buying the sets as I have noticed that sometimes there cheeper sold seperatly. :(


purplelady  07 Jan 2003 
Insomnia Turtle- I have found that most internet businesses Will take all forms of payment including check or money order. You just have to put it in the mail and it takes a little longer. takes money orders and they have a very large selection, also Tarotgarden. 

Teal  08 Jan 2003 
Well, here's my input, even though I'm not through reading all the posts yet.

I got the Native American tarot deck by itself way early on when I first started getting decks. That deck was my most neglected deck and I even tried to trade it off. I didn't like it, couldn't seem to get into reading with it---------but then on Amazon I saw this used copy of the book that goes with it for three bucks. I figure-----eh, what's three lousy bucks. Might as well get the book and maybe the deck/book set would make a more interesting trade for someone. Being the book-a-holic I am, though, of course I decided to read the book as long as it was here.

People, I want to tell you! This deck is now the most awesome deck for me! I just cherish it! And to think I almost threw it away, so to speak! It speaks to me so definitely when I read with it that it's awe inspiring. So there's something to be said for a deck/book set, especially when it's a deck that's been made by someone not totally adhering to traditional meanings.

My experience has been that just about every deck is sold the three ways-------some only as a separate deck or a deck/book, but some also will offer just a book on a deck. If you're having trouble finding decks not sold as sets where you are, it's probably just the choice of the store who is stocking their shelves there. Maybe you could tell them that their sales would improve if they were to make separate offerings available too. 

firemaiden  11 Jan 2003 
Originally posted by Ophiel
I have decided to call it quits with Tarot. Yes, I'm selling all my decks and investing in Magic the Gathering cards. They are quite attractive and I checked, and I don't have to buy a microwave oven or anything in order to buy packs of cards.

Ophiel ;)

Ophiel, am I hearing your right? You are calling it quits? You mean you can just walk away from an addiction like that?? Or were you never addicted? Boy oh boy, let us know how it goes. If you are serious, I will feel seriously sad and miss you. 

The Books/Deck Combos....WHY? thread was originally posted on 06 Jan 2003 in the Tarot Decks board, and is now archived in the Forum Library. Read the threads in Tarot Decks, or read more archived threads.

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