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Book of the Month Club

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Book of the Month Club

The Book of the Month Club (founded 1926[1]) was a United States mail-order book sales club that offered a new book each month to customers. In 2014, it was phased out and its members merged with the Literary Guild. [2]

The Book of the Month Club was 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. 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.

In 2008, Bookspan (along with DVD club Columbia House) was sold to the private equity firm Najafi Companies.

Membership terms

The most common terms of 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. Customers 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.

Enrolling members usually got a selection of books to pick from at an introductory price (for example, "4 books for $1.00 each plus shipping"), with the stipulation that once they accepted and paid for the introductory offer, they agreed 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 were 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 the 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.


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.[3] 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,.[4] 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, 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.[5]

Clubs operated by Bookspan and affiliates

  • Black Expressions
  • BOMC2 (
  • Children's Book-of-the-Month Club
  • Crafter's Choice
  • Crossings
  • Doubleday Book Club
  • Doubleday Large Print
  • The Good Cook
  • History Book Club
  • Literary Guild
  • The Military Book Club
  • Mosaico
  • Mystery Guild
  • One Spirit
  • Quality Paperback Book Club
  • Rhapsody Book Club
  • Science Fiction Book Club
  • Scientific American Book Club
  • Stephen King Library

See also


  1. ^ 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.
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Harry Scherman," Current Biography 1943, pp 669-671
  4. ^ Id. at 669
  5. ^ "DVD distributor closes its doors". Toronto Star. 2010-12-09. Retrieved 2011-10-03. 

Further reading

  • 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.

External links

  • Book-of-the-Month Club
  • BOMC history at
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