Book of the Month
|Founded||1926New York City, New York, U.S.in|
New York City,
|Parent||Pride Tree Holdings|
Book of the Month (founded 1926) is a United States subscription-based e-commerce service that offers a selection of five new hardcover books each month to its members. Books are selected and endorsed by a panel of judges, and members choose which book they would like to receive, similar to how the club originally operated when it began in 1926. Members can also discuss the books with fellow members in an online forum.
In late 2015, in concert with the club's 90th year, the club announced a relaunch into its current iteration. Within two years, the club had grown its membership to more than 100,000 members, primarily millennial women, and the club's presence on social media grew to over 300,000 Instagram followers. Approximately 75% of the club's titles are by up-and-coming authors, and 80% of titles are fiction. The club has also worked with a series of celebrity guest judges who bring broader awareness to new titles, and continues producing its own versions of books that feature special endpapers and casings. In 2016, the club launched a Book of the Year award. In 2017, the club debuted its first ever television advertisement called "Monthly".
The club has a tradition of focusing on debut and emerging writers, and is known for having helped launch the careers of some of the most acclaimed authors in American literary history. In 1926 (its first year in operation), the Club featured Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises. In 1936 (its tenth year), the Club selected Gone with the Wind by unknown author Margaret Mitchell. Today, the book remains the second favorite of American readers (after the Bible). Mitchell wrote: "I wanted to thank [Book of the Month] from the bottom of my heart for selecting my book. It was quite the most exciting and unexpected thing that ever happened to me." In 1951 (its 25th year), the club distributed its 100 millionth book and selected J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye, which became both the most-censored and the most-taught book in America. In 1978, the Club selected By the Rivers of Babylon, the first book by Nelson DeMille, who later wrote: "I will be forever grateful to Book of the Month for ensuring that my first book, By the Rivers of Babylon, was not my last. When the Club selected Babylon in 1978, it reached hundreds of thousands of additional readers and became an instant best-seller."
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 million 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 (son of Kalman 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 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.
Book of the Month Club was acquired by Time Inc. in 1977; Time Inc. merged with Warner Communications in 1989. The original judges panel was eliminated in 1994. In 2000, the Book-of-the-Month Club, Inc. 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. In 2008, Bertelsmann sold its US subscription business to the private equity firm Najafi Companies. In 2013, Najafi sold Bookspan to current parent company Pride Tree Holdings, Inc.
The club operates a subscription program, similar to other box subscription services, where customers select a membership plan for a set period of time (3-months, 6-months or 12-months) and books are shipped to all members during the first seven days of the month.
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.
Book of the Year Award
In late 2016, the club announced its first annual Book of the Year Award, the finalists for which are chosen by the club's members. The award is called the "Lolly", in tribute to Lolly Willowes, the first book selected by the club back in 1926. "Lolly Willowes" was written by Sylvia Townsend Warner, who later went on to become a prolific writer and even wrote short stories for The New Yorker.  In 2017, the award added a $10,000 prize, and the winner was The Hearts Invisible Furies by Irish author John Boyne. In 2018, the members voted Circe by Madeline Miller as best book of the year. In 2019, the members voted Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid as best book of the year. In 2020, the members voted The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett as best book of the year.
- "Bookspan Company Profile | Financial Information, Competitors and Executives". DataFox. Retrieved May 5, 2017.
- Radway, Janice A. (1997). A Feeling for Books: The Book-of-the-Month Club, Literary Taste, and Middle-Class Desire. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
- "Discussion". Book of the Month. Retrieved 27 March 2016.
- Charles, Ron (2017-12-19). "Review | What do women want? One company is betting it comes between two covers". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2018-01-24.
- Brown, Ellen F. "It's not your grandma's Book of the Month Club". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2016-12-11.
- "This Delightful Ad for Book of the Month Makes a Bunch of Period Jokes and It's Actually Funny". www.adweek.com. Retrieved 2018-01-24.
- "Our Story". Book of the Month. Retrieved 2016-12-11.
- "Harry Scherman," Current Biography 1943, pp 669-671
- "Time+ Loves Book‐of‐the‐Month". The New York Times. 1977-07-10. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-04-15.
- Kaplan, James. "Inside the Club". Retrieved 2018-04-17.
- Carvajal, Doreen (1996-04-01). "Triumph of the Bottom Line;Numbers vs. Words at the Book-of-the-Month Club". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-05-12.
- Learmonth, Michael. "Bertelsmann Finally Ditches Book-Of-The-Month Club, Columbia House". Business Insider. Retrieved 2019-05-12.
- "Najafi Companies Sells Direct Brands". PublishersWeekly.com. Retrieved 2019-05-12.
- "How It Works". Retrieved 2015-06-22.
- "The Best Books of the Year - Book of the Month". www.bookofthemonth.com.
- "Introducing the Lolly!". www.bookofthemonth.com. Retrieved 2016-12-21.
- "Book of the Month Members Select THE HEART'S INVISIBLE FURIES as Book of the Year". penguinrandomhouse.com. Retrieved 2018-01-24.
- "Readers Picked This Title As Book of the Year". Real Simple. Retrieved 2018-01-24.
- "The Best Books of the Year". Book of the Month. Retrieved 2019-01-28.
- 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.