When most collectors refer to book club editions, they're speaking of the mail-order / subscription services typically run by Bookspan (in the U.S. & Canada). These include, most famously, Book-of-the-Month-Club (BoMC), Crossings, DoubleDay Book Club, Literary Guild, Mystery Guild, and others. Most book collectors find little value in these editions. The problem is, a lot of book club editions aren't easily identified. In fact, many book club editions utilize the same copyright page as the trade editions—often times even duplicating the "first edition" statements and the full number lines.
There are ways, however, to tell if you have a book club edition:
In general, book club editions are more cheaply printed than the trade editions. Where a trade edition may have embossed or decorative elements on its cover and be printed on a better quality paper, a book club edition will lack those elements and be printed on a cheaper looking & feeling paper.
On the Back of the Dust Jacket
Check for the ISBN barcode box on the back cover. A book club edition (bce) will be identified by the fact that it has one of the following:
- A barcode box with a larger and smaller barcode, but won't have a number over the smaller barcode.
- Only one barcode (instead of the larger and smaller barcodes)
- No barcode box at all.
Instead of a barcode, it may just have a small box with a 4-8 digit numeric code.
On the DJ Spine
Sometimes the spine will display a small dot near the bottom. This dot does not appear on the trade edition. It can indicate a book club edition.
On the Inner Flap
- No price is listed on the dust jacket flap
- Sometimes the bottom of the dust jacket will state "Book Club Edition."
The Book Boards
The book boards are usually covered in paper, sometimes with a cloth spine. Often times this differs from the trade edition, which may be covered in cloth.
Blind Stamps on the Back Cover
Until fairly recently publishers would blind stamp a symbol on the back cover to indicate it was a book club edition. These blind stamps were small, debossed shapes (squares, triangles, circles, or publisher's marks) usually appearing on the lower edge of the cover near the spine.
Earlier renditions of the blind stamp were just printed onto the back cover (rather than debossed).
End papers are those sheets of paper at the very front and back of the book that are glued to the inside book cover. Half the sheet is pasted down and the other half is the first page you come across when you open the book. In many trade editions (but not all) these end sheets may be decorative—either colored or printed with a design, map, pattern, etc.
In book club editions, the end papers are usually the same paper as the rest of the text with no decoration or coloring.
The text block (or the body of the book) is printed on a cheaper stock of paper. You can easily tell by touching the paper. If you hold a page up, you'll probably be able to see the text coming through from the other side.
The copyright page won't always give away a book club edition, although sometimes there is a separate statement identifying Book of the Month Club or other book club publications. In early 20th century Book of the Month Club publications, a "W" appears on the copyright page.
Look for an alphanumeric code printed in the gutter of the last page (just before the end paper).
In most cases book club editions are smaller / shorter than the trade edition.
Headbands don't appear on every trade edition, but if you look at the top and bottom of the book, where the pages attach to the spine, you may notice a decorative cloth band glued between the pages and the inner spine. This used to be a structural element, adding strength to the binding. These days, unless the book is hand bound, it is purely decorative.
That said, book club editions do not have headbands.
Ephemera & Ads
Some book clubs (like Heritage) will include laid in material about the book. This usually appears as a loose-leaf letter tucked into the book either directly before or directly after the front end paper. The page may give information about the book club in addition to the book.
There may also be ads for the book club. These can appear on the dust jacket flaps, the title or copyright pages, or at the end of the book.
Different Book Clubs
- The Book-of-the-Month Club
- Children's Book-of-the-Month Club
- Doubleday Book Club
- Fireside Book Club
- Heritage Press
- History Book Club
- The Literary Guild
- Mystery Guild
- Quality Paperback Book Club
- Reader’s Digest Condensed Books
- Science Fiction Book Club
- The Stephen King Library