Bestseller Book Clubs Compared
Trying to choose an appropriate book club to join, especially if you are doing it the first time, and especially if you are looking at general interest book clubs, can be a somewhat confusing task. There seem to be several offerings advertising quite similar features and benefits, so the question inevitably pops up: which one is right for you? Which one should you choose? Does it matter at all? Hopefully, this article will go some way toward answering these questions for you.
Our comparison entails the three largest bestseller and general interest book clubs. They are all part of Bookspan, a company which owns and operates about 20 book clubs in the US with millions of members; undoubtedly, the clubs compared in this article are making a weighty contribution towards that number. If you aren't yet familiar with how each of these clubs work, we suggest you take a look at our summary pages to get a basic understanding of the features and benefits they provide.
The clubs compared here are designated as bestseller book clubs, and that is what they offer: today's bestsellers and tomorrow's discoveries hot off the press, as they like to advertise. All three clubs do a good job of covering a wide range of genres, however, they do have their small partialities: Book-of-the-Month Club, for example, is catering more towards the serious reader; it is stocked exceptionally well with biographies and memoirs, history books and even a small but refined selection of classics. Their fiction library also exhibits a certain sobriety; there is an evident "literary" aspect to it, an attempt to keep a little distance from purely mainstream releases.
Doubleday and The Literary Guild, on the other hand, are predominantly furnished with widely popular fiction titles. Doubleday offers a somewhat larger selection, and this is especially true for romantic books and women's literature in general: you could say this is their forte. The Literary Guild's stronger point are mysteries and thrillers, but if you're a science fiction fan neither of these two clubs will have much to offer you.
That said, when it comes to the very latest and most popular offerings – stuff that sells – each of these clubs holds its own equally well. When a hot new book comes out of print, chances are you will find it at each of the clubs regardless of its genre and what the club's stronger points might otherwise be. For example, if a bestselling new biography appears in the channels, you will likely see it at Doubleday and TLG as well, despite the fact that biographies could be considered BOMC's domain.
Doubleday Book Club and The Literary Guild feature identical introductory offers: 5 books for 99¢ (plus S&H). Book-of-the-Month offers 4 books for $1 and is at a slight disadvantage here, but tries to compensate that with a free gift -- which at the moment of this writing is a surprise book, so you do get 5 books with BOMC after all. Still, the surprise book is not of your choosing so the remark about the disadvantage stands. All three clubs also offer an opportunity to purchase your first book at the enrollment at a special discount as a chance to reduce your commitment immediately, however, these offers are not identical: Doubleday and The Literary Guild will give you this additional book for a fixed price ($5.99), while Book-of-the-Month offers a 50% discount. The low fixed price is better.
We are now stepping into an area where things aren't as straightforward anymore. Let's see how the discounts are advertised:
At first glance it would appear that BOMC is at a disadvantage again. But let's see how does this look in practice. At Book-of-the-Month, fresh new releases are rarely discounted by more than 30%, which pretty much corresponds with the advertised number. Doubleday goes a bit further and in most cases offers a 32-40% reduction on retail price. The Literary Guild Book Club, however, almost always offers the full 50% off the publisher's price.
Or, if you prefer the straight numbers: a fresh new bestseller which retails for $25.95 will typically cost you $17.99 at BOMC, $15.99-16.99 at Doubleday and $12.99 at The Literary Guild.
Things get a bit complicated with books that aren't in the center of the limelight anymore. In general, the prices at all three clubs go down as the book's tenure at the club increases. You can find plenty of older bestsellers by renown authors for $7.99, but prices can often go down to $4.99 and even as low as $2.99, at all clubs. So, the advertised discounts (30% off and 50% off) really only pertain to the newer offerings. Older stuff quite often comes at even higher discounts, however, there can be some pretty wide price discrepancies among our three book clubs. A book that costs $7.99 at Doubleday can go for $11.99 at Book-of-the-Month and vice versa, which makes it difficult to single out any specific club as the best source for older titles.
Undoubtedly, Book-of-the-Month club sports the highest prices, however, it is also the only club among the three that offers Bonus Points on everything you buy. Bonus Points are redeemable against books and can, in the long run, bring you some nice savings, thus compensating for the club's less attractive pricing policy.
Recommending one particular bestseller book club is difficult. They all have their strengths and their weaknesses and it's really up to you to make a choice, according to your needs and preferences. Here are some pointers though.
The very first US book club, it's where it all started; being a member carries a certain prestige with it. There is a sort of, well, seriousness about it, which reflects in the club's library. They are the only club with their own publishing program in which they are bringing out sets of classics by celebrated authors, but are also committed to introducing up-and-coming writers. BOMC has the highest prices of the three clubs, but compensates that with Bonus Points designed to award members' loyalty: the longer you stay a member and the more books you buy, the more money you will save.
The most popular club with the largest membership body. Especially favored by women for its romantic and women's library. Features an excellent introductory offer and prices on new books comparable to those of the most competitive online retailers. Their pricing structure is perhaps not quite as attractive as that of The Literary Guild, but still, their frequent special saving offers can make a membership in this club a very rewarding experience.
Almost equally as popular as Doubleday and almost as old as BOMC. Features a diverse, all-round library with perhaps a slight accent on the mystery/suspense genre. With the minimum of 50% off the retail price on any book, The Literary Guild offers the best deal on new titles among the clubs reviewed here. If fresh new bestsellers are your main interest, TLG is probably the best club for you to try out.