The common 20th cent. understanding of
book club is not a club at all but an organization that promotes the mail-order sale of books. Among the best known are the Book-of-the-Month Club, with its offshoot paperback book club, Quality Paperback Books, and the Literary Guild. There are also clubs devoted to more specialized interests and forms, such as cooking, gardening, science fiction, computers, and books in recorded audio formats. Mail-order clubs—set up as they are to ensure that the tastes and choices of their readership will be met—are models of mass production and distribution methods aimed to supply individual consumers. Although various book clubs apply different methods, the Book-of-the-Month Club licenses publishers' printing plates in order to print its selections cheaply and bind them sturdily for mailing. Members order negatively; that is, they let the club know which books they do not want by returning an order card. Although mail-order book clubs enjoy large memberships, they lost some ground to the rise of discount chain bookstores in the 1980s and on-line booksellers in the late 1990s.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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