Never Judge a Book By Its Cover… Unless It Has the ‘BOTM’ Seal of Approval: A History

(image via: book of the month)

Whether you love reading books, collecting books, or both (and trust us, these two things are very different!) or you frequent Bookstagrams or Booktok, you’ve probably definitely run into posts about Book of the Month Club. Now, we’ve been subscribers for years but it wasn’t until we were listening to the most recent episode of their Podcast, Virtual Book Tour, that we even thought about diving into the history of the club. The history spans decades and as self-proclaimed bibliophiles, we lapped it up. Let’s get started! 

The year was 1916 and Harry Scherman was working as a copywriter for the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency. On his quest to begin what he called the “Little Leather Library” he teamed up with Max Sackheim, and Charles and Albert Boni to create a mail-order service that offered “30 Great Books for $2.98”. In its first five years, the gang sold 40 million copies, and following this success Sackheim and Scherman founded their own ad agency devoted entirely to books. 

Fast-forward to 1926. At this time Scherman was having a bit of a dry spell when it came to reading. You know the feeling, nothing he was reading was really getting or holding his attention. (chronofhorse.com) So together with Sackheim and Robert Haas, the team created what was known originally as the Book of the Month Club, and really it wasn’t too far off from what it is now, subscribers could choose from a number of books deemed worthy by the leaders of the “club” for a fee. In its early days, the club had over 4,000 subscribers, and just after twenty years, the number of subscribers soared to over 55,000. It wasn’t long until being a ‘Book of the Month Club’ book was a way to promote new titles. 

Editorial content
(image via: book of the month)

When Book of the Month Club began it operated, like so much at the time, through mail-order catalogs where members were shipped their book on a particular date unless the selection was declined. Members had the option to decline, choose a different book, or opt for merchandise instead, but if the club didn’t hear back from them, they took this as a “go-ahead” to send the original selection to the member. Nowadays everything is done through an app, of course. Members are presented with 5 – 7 books each month of varying genres, they make their selection at the beginning of each month, and then a few days later it’s the best day of the whole month! (Xanax) Members can also opt out for a month, choose from a number of add-ons, and even unlock perks month-to-month. 

One thing has remained the same in the almost 100 years that Book of the Month has been around, you can trust these folks to pick out fine reading material, and rarely, if ever, will you be let down. Check out Book of the Month here!

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