Book Clubs vs Online Retailers
Join a book club or buy books at an online retailer? If you have been asking yourself this question, you've come to the right place. In this article we will try to exhibit the advantages as well as the drawbacks of both options and hopefully help you choose the right one for you.
Before we launch into it, let us define what exactly we will be comparing here. There are two basic types of book clubs: commitment book clubs and continuity book clubs.
Commitment book clubs are also known as book of the month clubs. They typically offer you an enticing deal in which you get a bundle of books up front for a nominal price, but are obliged to purchase a certain number of items (usually 2-4) within a period of time (1-2 years). Pretty much all the clubs in this category today are united under one parent company named Booksonline. Here's a few prominent names: Book-of-the-Month Club, Doubleday Book Club, The Literary Guild Book Club, Science Fiction Book Club, Mystery Guild Book Club etc.
Continuity book clubs do not let you choose books yourself: instead, each month you are sent a book or several books from a specific genre (or a part of a series), which are selected by the club's editors. Typical representatives are Harlequin romance series', as well as Sandvik's group of children's book clubs that is called Early Moments now.
While continuity book clubs are a great resource for a certain type of book lover, due to their operational model and their selection it makes little sense to compare them with online book retailers; therefore, what follows here pertains to commitment book clubs from Booksonline family only.
A good online book store has a vast selection of books. Being online outfits, they have an advantage of not having to stock each and every item in their database, although you might have to wait a few days or weeks for some less popular book to be delivered. Of course, even the best online retailers can't offer you every book ever published, we need to be realistic about that: if a book has been out of print for some time, it's unlikely you will find a new copy anywhere. However, better stores carry databases of used books as well, and there's a good chance you will find what you want there, although the quality of the merchandise can vary.
Things are a little different with Booksonline clubs, as they sport two different selections: initial selection and member selection. Initial selection is where a prospective member chooses her/his introductory books from, and it can contain up to a few thousand titles. Not nearly as much as book retailers offer, however, the idea here is “quality over quantity”: book clubs employ panels of editors whose job is to scrutinize hundreds of books being published each month and present the members and potential members with those worthy of their attention. Or, as they like to say, they do the work so you can focus on reading great books, not searching for them.
Once you become a full member of any of Booksonline clubs, you gain access to a much larger pool of books, which entails complete libraries of all the other book clubs under the parent company's patronage.
Much of the appeal that book clubs hold is due to the guidance members receive in buying new books. With the abundance of titles being published these days, an expert advice on reading material is being appreciated more and more; this is particularly true for special interest book clubs which concentrate on books that are less familiar and possibly also less accessible to members.
Another advantage of book clubs is availability of unique content. Frequently, book clubs print their own book editions in order to cut down the costs, and these are not just the latest and most popular releases: some clubs are known for publishing reprint editions of long out of print books along with hardcover one-volume reissues of multiple-volume paperback editions. Also, you will find plenty of somewhat older titles by the most popular authors at bargain prices – quite often these books are not available anywhere else, and online retailers can only offer you used editions.
Online stores usually offer 30-45% discount on books' regular retail prices, and this is often accompanied by the free shipping offer, if certain conditions are met: all the books from your order have to be eligible for free shipping, there's a minimum total amount you need to spend (usually $25), plus some geographical restrictions may apply too.
Book clubs offer quite a bit more in the way of savings. To begin with, there's an introductory offer. These vary from club to club, from 4 books for $4, to 5 books for 99¢. True, the incredibility of these offers is diluted to an extent by the fact that you still need to pay for shipping and handling charges, but even so, at some clubs you can get five new hardcover bestsellers for less than $3 apiece, and that is not something any of the book retailers can match by a long shot.
With the introductory offer exploited, members are eligible to discounts that range anywhere from 30-80% -- in reality you may find books discounted even beyond 80%. Plenty of titles by the most popular authors can be had for as low as $9.99 or $7.99, but it's not such a rarity to find a book with a $5.99 and even $2.99 price tag. Free shipping is often offered as a promotional effort. Deals such as “buy two books and get a third for $1.99”, or "make a purchase this month and get a free book next month" are promoted on a regular basis in a bid to retain members' loyalty with additional savings. Omnibus editions can often be found for ridiculously low prices, and at some clubs members get bonus points with each purchase – those are redeemable against books.
Whether you decide to join a club or just buy your books at an online retailer – you can't go wrong either way. A good book store will give you a vast selection of titles to choose from, a nice discount and complete freedom in deciding when, what and if you want to buy anything.
At most book clubs you get a rather incredible deal up front and a pretty catalog in your mail every 3-4 weeks with suggested reads tailored to your personal taste, but in exchange you have to commit to buying a few more books later on. The commitment is small enough, though, 1-4 books within a year – hardly a problem for a dedicated book lover.