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Thread: Mail-Order Book Clubs

  1. #1

    Default Mail-Order Book Clubs

    Book clubs were going well into the 90s and may be still in existence for all I know. I was a member of several from the late 70s into the early-mid 90s. First contact with a book club would be typically via an advertisement in a magazine or sunday supplement. There would be a number of books in the ad and you could buy a specific number for a fixed price, say 4 for 5 as an example. After receiving the books, you would be automatically enrolled into the club. Each month or perhaps 2 months, you would receive a catalogue of books, one of which would be the editor's choice. If you didn't order a book, the editor's choice would be sent to you on approval (in ones I joined you weren't compelled to buy it, and could opt out of being sent the editor's choice by returning a form in each catalogue; other clubs may have been different). I think you had to agree to take a fixed number of books over a specific period, say 3 in a year for example, after which you were free to cancel your membership. Clubs would often be themed, for example books on animals, books on cars, books on cooking etc. The two that I best remember being a member of were on the paranormal and military history.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Mail-Order Book Clubs

    I seem to remember our school also having a "mail order" book club but you weren't tied into it, just one offs if you wanted. That was where I bought a 3 pack (in a nice thick cardboard sleeve) of the first three Fighting Fantasy books by Ian Livingston and Steve Jackson, those first three were "The Warlock of Firetop Mountain", "The Citadel of Chaos" and "The Forest of Doom". Those books were great and sparked an interest for me so I collected more as I grew up. Somehow they all got lost later on but i've managed to buy some of them as I find them in shops/markets.

    I also seem to remember a small spark of there being a similar club style to this for Computer Games? i.e Spectrum/C64/Amstrad. I have vague memories of the catalogue and for some reason getting "Rescue on Fractulus" from it. It's a very hazy memory but seems familiar. Anyone else join the Computer Game version?

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Mail-Order Book Clubs

    Yes, we had one of those at our school, as well. The only books I remember buying (or rather my parents giving me money for) were a biography Louis Braille and a dinosaur one.
    Time flies like the wind, fruit flies like bananas - go figure!

  4. #4

    Default Re: Mail-Order Book Clubs

    I have a very vague memory of a book club at school, but I recall far better that my son's school had a book club and he would occasionally bring home a catalogue with the latest books to buy.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Mail-Order Book Clubs

    There were two different clubs for kids depending on their age groups. I seem to remember one was called Chips but I can't be sure...
    Time flies like the wind, fruit flies like bananas - go figure!

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Mail-Order Book Clubs

    Quote Originally Posted by zabadak View Post
    There were two different clubs for kids depending on their age groups. I seem to remember one was called Chips but I can't be sure...
    I remember Chip with Lucky being one for slightly younger children. Both were regular issues around my Primary School & often I talked my parent into buying book from them & still have many.
    The Trickster On The Roof

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Mail-Order Book Clubs

    The Sunday magazines used to have them on the back cover - I know that the News of the World's Sunday (or should I say, Sun Day) magazine used to have them - one of the advertisers was WHSmith or some company connected to WHSmith where each book was 25p or some price like that. Cookery books used to feature in the choices, and children's books such the Very Hungry Caterpillar also featured as well.

    Britannia used to do the same thing with CDs, LPs, and cassettes, and I believe that they also offered a personal stereo or something as a way of welcoming you for joining up.

    Or if you were referring to the ones in schools, I know that my Junior school had the other book club mentioned where I think we had to save up and buy certain stamps (a bit like Green Shield Stamps) which eventually bought a book of a certain value.
    Telling it almost exactly like it was so many years later - and proud of doing so!

  8. #8

    Default Re: Mail-Order Book Clubs

    Yes, they were a good source if you were looking for a book club. I think I remember seeing ads where books were priced individually as the enticer, but the ones I joined were all of the "any 4 books for 5" or similar. The book club I joined that had paranormal books was called, I believe, Encounters. The club for military books was something like Military Book Guild. I don't remember if those two were connected to W.H. Smith, but I agree that some others were.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Mail-Order Book Clubs

    Those Book Clubs had such huge competition from High Street retailers (Waterstones, Dillons, and even WHSmith), and even local libraries where one could borrow books if they are available, but at least in those days they didn't need to worry about the internet and Amazon and Ebay back then. Because of that, I assume that not many people would have taken advantage of something that one could get in a bookshop, but then again, if one had a "JR Hartley" moment and cannot find the book that you want in the High Street, mostly because it's probably out of print and not available, then I suppose these Book Clubs may have had them. I am certain that Reader's Digest books were also on there as well.

    I have a feeling that some of them being sold were "not available in the shops" to coin a phrase, and so that was the only place where one could purchase them.
    Telling it almost exactly like it was so many years later - and proud of doing so!

  10. #10

    Default Re: Mail-Order Book Clubs

    In the days when book clubs were at their zenith, high street bookshops would often charge full cover price, whereas book clubs usually offered books at a sizeable discount. The disadvantage was that you usually had to commit to taking a set number of books over a specific time period, for example 3 books in a year, in order to get the enticer that was in the sunday magazines. Discounted books were available on the high street in shops that offered very good prices, but their books were from stock that other shops or publishers had not been able to sell, so they were often a few years old or more. If you wanted bang up to date titles then W.H. Smith etc was your source.

    Many book clubs specialised in particular subjects, so if you were heavily into, say, military history, an appropriate book club may offer a wider range of books than a standard high street shop would, plus, pre-internet, it was far harder to find out what was being published in niche areas.

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