Hartmut Ostrowski, CEO of Bertelsmann

Subscription-Based Book Clubs in Decline

May 22, 2008 07:01 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Media giant Bertelsmann AG’s sale of its American book club division leaves some asking whether the venerable book-of-the-month club business model is headed for extinction.

30-Second Summary

Bertelsmann, the global media publishing conglomerate based in Germany, recently announced the sale of its American book clubs and is reconsidering its other clubs, reports The Economist magazine.

Subscription-based book clubs, not to be confused with widely popular literature discussion groups, were more common when book stores were less ubiquitous. The book clubs offer subscribers editorially selected, discounted books and convenient home delivery. But the availability of inexpensive books from big bookstore chains, supermarkets and the Internet has cut into their memberships.

“I don’t hold much hope for the future of mainstream book clubs,” says Roger Cooper, the former editorial director of Bertelsmann’s American book clubs.

Despite all of the bad news, one area of growth has been specialist book clubs that make use of the Internet. The clubs offer preselected books in specific areas of interest, such as cooking or military history. Bertelsmann has had success in the United States with its Black Expressions club, which is aimed at black women; Mosaico, a Spanish-language club; and the Progressive Book Club, which is aimed at left-leaning readers.

Some have predicted that physical books themselves are on their way out, to be replaced by electronic versions. In Fall 2007, released the Amazon Kindle, a handheld e-book reader that downloads content wirelessly. The device promptly sold out.

Internet usage has prompted fears about the demise of other print media industries, most notably newspapers. “I know that my morning newspaper is on its way into the museum, along with the model T and the whalebone corset, perhaps within my own lifetime,” says Anita Diamant at the International Herald Tribune.

Headline Link: ‘The Final Chapter?’

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Reference: Book club reviews


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