Book clubs? Say that again

In A Sign Of The Times, Bertelsmann Closes Its Book Clubs Division

By Laura Hazard Owen/

Book clubs were once an essential revenue stream for the book
publishing industry, with millions of customers buying discounted
books directly. But today, with deep discounts and wide selections
offered by online retailers, book clubs have become much less
important to the publishing industry. In a nod to
changing times,
Random House parent company Bertelsmann is now closing Direct Group,
its book clubs and direct marketing division, effective June 30.

Over the past three years, Direct Group has sold off most of its
international subsidiaries, including those in the U.S., UK, Italy,
Spain, Australia, Asia, and France, and will fold the remaining ones
into Bertelsmann or sell them off. Najafi Companies, the Phoenix-based
private equity firm that is considering a bid for Borders, bought
Direct Group North America, whose brands included Book of the Month
Club and Columbia House, in 2008 and the French-speaking businesses in

With the closing of Direct Group, Bertelsmann will encompass four
divisions: Random House; European magazine publisher Gruner + Jahr;
radio and TV division RTL; and business services group Arvato.

The book club business has shrunk drastically in recent years, and
while some small clubs like the Progressive Book Club and Conservative
Book Club have sprung up to appeal to niche political audiences, as of
2009 the Direct Group book clubs' membership in the United States had
shrunk by as much as 75 percent from its height.

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