Book of the Month Club
The Book of the Month Club is part of a larger company 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., a company owned by Bertelsmann. 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 would eliminate 280 positions, or about 15% of its workforce of 1,900. Many of the specialty book clubs such as conservative book club American Compass were eliminated.
The most common terms of membership involve a "negative response" system whereby a member is shipped the monthly selection on a particular date if the selection is not declined before that date is reached. Customers have the option to respond by declining the selection or opting to order another book or books instead. No response is deemed acceptance of the selection.
Enrolling members usually get a selection of books to pick from at an introductory price (for example, "4 books for $1.00 each"), with the stipulation that once they have accepted and paid for the introductory offer, they agree to purchase a certain number of books within a certain period of time (for example, 2 books within the first year) to complete their membership agreement.
The BOMC2 club format, a web-only sister club, requires one book purchase per month, but customers are allowed to leave the club at any point. The customer can build and manage a book list similar to a mail-order-DVD rental queue. The customer is charged a monthly membership fee and is sent the first available book on his or her list. The membership commitment is fulfilled upon purchasing the required number of books during a specific time period as set forth in the club's terms of service. Other book-of-the-month clubs operate under similar systems.
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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.
On December 9, 2010, the Canadian operations of DB Media, parent company of Doubleday Book Clubs in Canada (and Columbia House in Canada) were suspended as the company entered receivership.
Clubs operated by Bookspan and affiliates
- Black Expressions
- Book-of-the-Month Club
- 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
- The Literary Guild
- The Military Book Club
- Mystery Guild
- One Spirit
- Quality Paperback Book Club
- Rhapsody Book Club
- Science Fiction Book Club
- Scientific American Book Club
- Stephen King Library
- DVD club
- 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, 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.
- 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.
- "Harry Scherman," Current Biography 1943, pp669-671
- Id. at 669
- "DVD distributor closes its doors". Toronto Star. 2010-12-09. Retrieved 2011-10-03.