Book of the Month Club
The Book of the Month Club (founded 1926) is a United States subscription eCommerce book club that offers a limited number of new books each month to members. Books are selected and endorsed by a panel of judges, similar to how the club originally operated when it began in 1926, and members can also discuss the books with fellow members in an online discussion forum.
The Book of the Month Club is part of a larger company called Bookspan that runs many book clubs in the United States and Canada. It was formerly the flagship club of Book-of-the-Month Club, Inc. In 2000, that company merged with Doubleday Direct, Inc. The resulting company, Bookspan, was a joint venture between Time Warner and Bertelsmann until 2007 when Bertelsmann took over complete ownership. Approximately six weeks after it acquired complete ownership of Bookspan, Bertelsmann initiated a major overhaul of the book club business, a process that eliminated 280 positions, or about 15% of its workforce of 1900. Many of the specialty book clubs, such as the conservative book club American Compass, were eliminated.
The club operates a subscription program, similar to other box subscription services, where customers select a membership plan for a set period of time (1 month, 3 months or 12 months) and receive at least one book in the mail each month. Books are shipped to all members on the same day.
Historically, when the club operated through mail-order catalogs, membership involved a "negative response" system whereby a member was shipped the monthly selection on a particular date if the selection was not declined before that date. Members had the option to respond by declining the selection or opting to order another book or merchandise instead. No response was deemed acceptance of the selection.
Harry Scherman was a copywriter for the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency in 1916 when he set out to create the "Little Leather Library." With his partners Max Sackheim, and Charles and Albert Boni, Scherman began a mail order service that offered "30 Great Books For $2.98" (miniature reprints "bound in limp Redcroft") and sold 40,000,000 copies in its first five years. Sackheim and Scherman then founded their own ad agency devoted entirely to marketing books.
The problems of building interest in a new book led Scherman to create, along with Sackheim and Robert Haas, the Book-of-the-Month Club in 1926. As Scherman explained it, the Club itself would be a "standard brand". "It establishes itself as a sound selector of good books and sells by means of its own prestige. Thus, the prestige of each new title need not be built up before becoming acceptable," he explained later,. After starting with 4,000 subscribers, the Club had more than 550,000 within less than twenty years. The size of the club did, in fact, create the Book of the Month Club as a brand. Being a "Book of the Month Club" selection was used to promote books to the general public.
Clubs operated by Bookspan and affiliates
- Black Expressions
- BOMC2 (BOMC2.com)
- Children's Book-of-the-Month Club
- Crafter's Choice
- Doubleday Book Club
- Doubleday Large Print
- The Good Cook
- History Book Club
- Literary Guild
- The Military Book Club
- Mystery Guild
- Quality Paperback Book Club (closed in August 2015)
- Rhapsody Book Club
- Science Fiction Book Club
- Scientific American Book Club
- Stephen King Library
- Radway, Janice A. A Feeling for Books The Book-of-the-Month Club, Literary Taste, and Middle-Class Desire. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997.
- "German media giant Bertelsmann sells US book clubs". Retrieved 2015-01-05.
- "How It Works". Retrieved 2015-06-22.
- "Harry Scherman," Current Biography 1943, pp 669-671
- Id. at 669
- "DVD distributor closes its doors". Toronto Star. 2010-12-09. Retrieved 2011-10-03.
- The Hidden Public: The Story of the Book-of-the-Month Club by Charles Lee (New York: Doubleday & Company, 1958) provides a history of the club, the book selection and membership procedures, and a list of all selections, dividends, and alternates from 1926 to 1957.
- The Books of the Century, a website compiled by Daniel Immerwahr (Northwestern University), lists the Club's main selections from 1926 until the mid-1970s.
- Janice Radway, A Feeling for Books: The Book-of-the-Month Club, Literary Taste, and Middle-Class Desire (Chapel Hill, 1997) offers a cultural analysis of the BOMC and its readers.
- William Zinsser, A Family of Readers; An informal portrait of the Book-of-the-Month Club and its members on the occasion of its 60th Anniversary. New York: Book-of-the-Month Club, 1986. 74 pp.