Jan 31 2008

Book-of-the-month clubs: Not a great idea

I love books. Always have. I regularly visit the library, and have a small personal collection of books. I like to use PaperBackSwap, and get used books whenever possible.

I’m a new member of MyPoints.com, and one offer that came through my inbox was points for signing up with a book-of-the-month club. I decided to look into it, just to see how expensive it would be. It’s quite costly.

Book of the Month Club

With Book of the Month Club, you select six books for $1, then have to buy four more books over the course of the next two years. Or, you could buy another book for $5.99 at the same time as your initial order and buy three books over the next two years.

Shipping and handling of the first item is $5.74; then each additional book in that order is $1.99 (overpriced!) plus tax. So, that initial order of seven books is looking like it will cost about $24.67 plus tax (I think). That’s about $3.50 per book, which isn’t terrible.

But, you’ll have to buy three more books to fulfill your membership obligation. From a quick sampling I took from available titles, you’re looking at $17-23 or so at regular price. If you choose three $17 books, that’s $51–not including shipping. If it’s $5.74 for the first item in your order, that’s $9.74 in shipping if you get all three books at once. 

So, your total obligation will be at least $85 plus tax. That’s about $8.50 per book (including your books from your initial order).

 

QPB

With QPB, you’ll pay $4 (no shipping charges) for your first two books. Then, you’ll have to buy two more books over the next two years to fulfill your obligation. I can’t find how much shipping will be. So, it’s a smaller obligation than other book clubs, but you’ll still be spending at least $30-40 by my estimates.

Most book-of-the-month clubs will send you stuff you didn’t order. You’ll have to read the fine print or call a customer service rep to make sure they won’t be sending you the "featured selection" of the month. Find out what you’ll have to do to opt out of that feature, if you don’t want it.

From the fine print at QPB: "If you want the Main Selection, do nothing and it will come automatically. If you want other books, or none at all, indicate your decision on the print or online version of the Reply Form and respond by the date specified."

Doubleday

Quite similar to the Book of the Month Club, with Doubleday, you’ll select six books, and then have to buy three more.

Zooba

Zooba has a flat rate of $9.95 per book with free shipping. You’ll be billed each month. You have to keep your membership for three months, or buy two additional books. So, your obligation will be about $30 for three books.

The bottom line

I don’t think these book clubs are a good deal. At all. The books available seem limited–you won’t be able to choose any book ever published or anything like that.

The membership fees can be costly (especially if you forget to cancel or forget to respond to the "do not want this featured selection" thing.

The book prices aren’t all that cheap.

You can do better buying on Amazon.com (spend $30 and get free shipping in some cases), buying used on Amazon, going through PaperBackSwap, or better yet–your public library.

P.S., if you want a chance to win a credit on PaperBackSwap, enter my giveaway!

What do you think of book clubs like this?



4 Responses to “Book-of-the-month clubs: Not a great idea”

  1. I laughed when I saw this post. I was enticed my MyPoints to joining Zooba. It doesn’t seem as costly as the others, and they were offering 1500 points for joining.

    First of all, you get a “buy it now” book for “free” for joining and your first monthly book. So, for 9.95 and no shipping you get two books. Then you buy two more in the future.

    I found a couple of cooking books that I have had my eye on. They were less expensive than at amazon. One of them is called How To Cook Everything by Mark Bittman It is a huge book and a super reference. I was happy to pay 9.95 for it.

    The prices (9.95) are a lot cheaper than the typical “book a month” club where you also have to pay shipping on top of the retail price of the book.

    Anyway, I guess I’m kind of laughing at myself. I wonder if I would have joined if I hadn’t been enchanted by the 1500 points? Which is what? About 5.00?

  2. I once joined one of those CD clubs, very similar to these book of the month clubs and in my experience as long as you are careful you can still make out decently with some of these clubs.

    I had joined the CD club in high school, just after my entire CD wallet had been stolen from the girls locker room. I managed to get most of my favorite CD’s back for the 1¢ deal or the discount price advertised and then was careful to immediately return all the free crap they sent me. I don’t know how much I spent in the long run but in the pre-MP3 days I made out pretty well and managed to recover my lost collection for a fraction of the record store price.

    Like you said though it’s always important to read the fine print and do the math before you sign up for anything.

  3. Not a big fan of anything-of-the-month clubs, myself. Although I read everything I can find when I have the time, I am very picky about what gets to *remain* in my personal library. Most books I really don’t want to purchase. The library is great, except for when you can’t get there when they’re open (I live in a small town). I used to belong to an online book rental place (like Netflix, but with books) and that was awesome until the Post Office started really dragging their feet with media mail (the company was East-coast based and I’m in California). It was less than $20/month for unlimited checkouts, 3 books at a time. Ah, I miss those days!

  4. A friend of mine did the book-of-the-month club a long time ago… just wanted to say that you can call them if there is a specific book you are looking for.. they may have it.

    I don’t do them… But I do get my books from the flea market now.. I have gotten SOO many books this way and for really cheap… it’s just one of my addictions… ha!

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Hey! I'm Kacie, wife to Shane and mother to Jonathan (7), Vivienne (5) and Amelia (2) . I write about my family's finance: how we save money, improve our spending, and plan for the future.

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