Book of the Month Club
The Book of the Month Club (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 major relaunch in its current iteration. In the first year since relaunch, the community has grown rapidly to include over 100,000 Instagram followers and over 100,000 Facebook followers. Members regularly post photos of themselves – or their pets – with their purchases. 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.
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 becomes 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 40,000,000 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 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.
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. Following a series of investment transactions, the club is currently owned by 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.
- 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.
- "Discussion". Book of the Month. Retrieved 27 March 2016.
- Brown, Ellen F. "It's not your grandma's Book of the Month Club". latimes.com. Retrieved 2016-12-11.
- "Our Story | Book of the Month". www.bookofthemonth.com. Retrieved 2016-12-11.
- "Harry Scherman," Current Biography 1943, pp 669-671
- "How It Works". Retrieved 2015-06-22.
- "Introducing the Lolly!". www.bookofthemonth.com. Retrieved 2016-12-21.
- 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.