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General Knowledge/FAQ About Books

Can you Identify a Book Club Edition?

How you can tell the difference between a first edition, first printing, and a book club edition of a collectible book – and why it matters!

BCE and non-BCE versions of Clan of the Cave Bear

This image from MyWingsBooks’ guide to BCE demonstrates the subtle differences in the smaller size of hardcover BCE books.

So, you have just entered the world of book collecting, and have probably realized that the task of properly identifying collectible books is not as simple as it first appears.

You know that first edition printings describe a book that is likely to be worth more than a second printing or later edition, but what of that hardcover on your shelf that appears to be a bit smaller than the others? Is that worth something, too?

What is a Book Club Edition?
The basic definition: A book club edition (BCE) or book of the month club edition (BOMC) refers to a book printed by a “book club” with cheaper materials than the original publishing house, and is generally not worth much to the serious collector.

How Can You Identify a Book Club Edition?
Just as in standard book-collecting, the indicators vary between the different book clubs. There are some general rules that do apply that can help you to correctly identify BCE:

  • Book club editions are generally not priced. In fact, some book club editions will have a blank box where the bar code normally goes.
  • Hardcover book club editions may be a little smaller than a trade hardcover, and may feel lighter. See the image for an example using Jean Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear.
  • Paperback book club editions are often a little larger than the trade paperbacks.
  • The paper used for the pages is often thinner and of lesser quality than trade editions.
  • The boards (the book cover) may be bound with thick paper instead of cloth.
  • The dust jacket may be made of thinner or uncoated paper.
  • The book’s endpapers may be white instead of in color.
  • There may be a blindstamp impressed into the back cover of a hardcover BCE, right next to the spine. The stamp could be any number of things, a circle, dot, square, triangle, or even a small white dot.
  • When checking the dust jacket, make sure you search the flaps for a notation of “Book Club Edition” or a similar phrase.
  • You can often find the name of the book club on the copyright page.
  • Often, book club editions will have an string of numbers on the last page of the book near the margin, running vertically, just before the endpaper.
  • Book club editions also may have four or five numbers printed in a contrasting box on the back of the book.

I’m Still Not Sure if I Have a Book Club Edition…
When in doubt, do a web search for a complete bibliography of the author in question. You can also search for a bookseller in your area to assist you in identifying and valuing your book for the standard appraisal rates.

Often, the same printing plates from trade editions are used to print the book club version. Any of the aforementioned indicators of BCE’s overrule the information printed on the copyright page of the book in question, including any statement of “first edition” or a complete number-line.

Has your book been “price-clipped?”  Often, used booksellers or previous owners will cut out the corner of the inner flaps of the dust jacket where a price had been listed.  Some of the more unscrupulous sellers may cut the corners even on a BCE to make it appear that there was once a price listed, making it harder to identify correctly.

Are there any Book Club Editions that are collectible?
There are some Book of the Month and Book Club publishers that are more respected in the field of book collecting.  Easton Press, The First Edition Society of the Franklin Library , the Limited Editions Club, the Book Club of California have all produced some high quality books, signed editions, and first edition, first printing of titles that have become valuable.

If your BCE is in the Science Fiction or Mystery genre, you may want to do some extra research before tossing it out. There are some titles that first appeared in hardback form as a book club edition after first being printed in paperback. While they are not first editions, they stand up to time better than the paperbacks and may have value, if for nothing else, as a good reading copy.  (For a detailed overview of Science Fiction BCE’s, see Tim Doyle’s article on Bookthink.com)

Well-known authors whose first edition trade copies are hard to find cause almost any printing of their books to have worth, even BCE’s.  Some well-touted examples include Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind, and J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye.

Cameo Editions of Nancy Drew books with original dust jackets, early BCE’s by author P.G. Wodehouse, and Doubleday’s 1985 printing of David Eddings’ Belgariad are considered collectible, as well as any other pre-1940’s titles with original dust jackets by well-known authors.

Examples of Book Clubs
The Book-of-the-Month Club, Fireside Book Club, History Book Club, The Literary Guild, Doubleday Book Club, Mystery Guild, and Science Fiction Book Club, Quality Paperback Book Club, Money Book Club, Reader’s Digest Condensed Books, Heritage Press, and hundreds more!

Bibliographic Resources:

MyWingsBooks – provides images of common BCE identifiers

BookThink – in-depth article explaining the identification marks of BCE, BOMC, and the different clubs that printed those books.

GWTW Books – provides information about collectible BCE of Gone With The Wind

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22 Comments

  • Not sure about my GWTW.
    The date is listed as MCMXXXVI
    published by The McMillin Company, New York. 689 pages with double columns on each page.
    Thanks for your info.
    Susan

    • The date in roman numerals indicates it’s a book club edition. The fact that MCMXXXVI is 1936 doesn’t mean your book was published in 1936. The book club edition may have been published many years later, with MCMXXXVI merely indicating the date of the original publication. The first edition/printing has on the copyright page, “Published May 1936”, The second printing is, “Published June 1936”. No roman numerals.

  • Most often a “Book Club” edition weighs
    less than a true First editon. Just by picking the book up will give you your first clue.

      • That smaller size and weight may also go hand in hand with another kind of slimming down–some cuts in the text. I don’t mean cuts to the extent of those in acknowledged condensations such as those of Reader’s Digest, but possibly a sentence or a paragraph here or there that seemed unimportant to someone at the book club. Decades ago, a friend lent me her copy of Thomas B. Costain’s two-volume novel The Tontine. Later, when I got my own copy. from either the Literary Guild or the Doubleday Book Club, and reread it, I was puzzled to find a couple of short passages that I had especially liked missing. Well, I’m not a collector–I just like books! But when I pick up one that isn’t identified as condensed, I’d like to be able to be sure I’m getting the whole thing!

  • Not sure if these might prove that book club editions might be valuable or not:
    Macmillian’s Pocket American and English Classics, which were used by students in the early part of the last centenary, and was an early pocketbook, although hard bound.
    Also the Conservative Book Club published selections that were collected in a series of volumes entitled “Omnibus Volume” I believe only six were published. These I believe might be sought after by conservative readers.

  • Hi, thanks for the article. Very informative. So, are there any exceptions to this rule? Like for example, if I have a signed copy of a book club (1st) edition by say, Rushdie or Rowling, can it be termed a ‘collectible’?

    • Occasionally; however, book club editions are not true 1st editions. They are often reprints of the 1st editions, but very rarely worth money. The signature itself might be worth a bit, but it depends on how often that author has signed their name for fans, really!

  • Are all non book club hardcover books made with acid free paper? Are any book club books made with acid free paper?

  • I have a copy, in absolutely perfect condition, jacket and all, of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The book shows no blind stamp, but at the bottom left of the jacket, it says, “Book Club Edition.” Inside, it says “First edition.” So which is it? I’m guessing it’s a really good quality Book club edition, but I wanted your opinion.

  • I have an old book “Gone With The Wind” with no copyright date. Is it definately a book club ediyion? I find no numbers to symbols anywhere.

  • May I state something I found interesting?:
    There is a group of interesting books, as far as I know, where the Book Club Editions are the ONLY versions that come in hardcover. Those are the “Politically Incorrect Guide to …” books. They are fun and informative, and some are quite scarce.
    There are many. The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War. The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization. The Politically Incorrect Guide to Communism. and so on.
    I have tried collecting as many hardcovers as I can, but some are quite rare as virtually all are in paperback form. ALL of the hardcovers are Book Club that I have run across. For instance, I have been unable to locate a hardcover PIG Communism at all. Maybe they did not even publish a hardcover Book Club of this one. A few others are hard-to-find, but can be obtained. Depending on their scarcity, they can fetch a higher price. Some of these hardcover PIG books are rather scarce and others rather common. Funny thing.

    On another note…The 1959 Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology by Rossell Hope Robbins is almost a classic in certain circles. One of the best books written on the topic. Well, the original 1959 First Edition has become quite the collector’s item. The thing is…every 1959 hardcover version I have ever seen says, “Book Club Edition” in the inside lower corner of the front dust cover flap. I see many go up for sale on eBay and Amazon, but the seller usually does not show the inner corner of the DJ flap where it says “Book Club Edition”. If there is a non-Book Club First Edition of this book, I would like to see it…for comparison anyway because I have never seen one. If they did publish a non-BC version in 1959, what are the differences between it and the BC edition. Size?. Endpaper color?. binding material?. Anyone happen to know?.

    So, with some hardcover books, they may not have published any hard covers but Book Club. There are indeed some odd exceptions to the rules.

  • Why would a respectable author sign book club editions if they are known for being cheap editions? I am (was) interested in two in particular. One claims to gave been limited to 200 copies and the other 700. The signature means a lot to me but now I am discouraged.

    • “The signature means a lot to me…” <--That's why they sign! It isn't about the value in monetary terms to many authors and fans, but the value of meeting the author or receiving a copy that was handled and signed by the author. It's the sentimental value that makes a truly memorable and special book collection!

  • I’ve found in some cases because of the smaller size book clubs are highly sought after and you are lucky to get one. Just wish the ISBN’s were different. They often are but not always. As the one book I’m reading is well over 600 pages but goodreads has it near 480 pages. Which I don’t quite get. smaller print and 100 + more pages o_O well anyway. thinner pages are better than thicker pages. They usually don’t rip. Too bad Bookspan dropped the size 🙁 The Terry Pratchett Omnibus’s were the best. Also the same with Hitchhikers guide. (4-5 books in 1..) and good ol LOTR and that one is taller than most . Usually book club books are missing the little ribbon along the top and bottom of the spine and sometimes they miss that little smaller slap of binding to hold the glue together so it doesn’t snap.. Was a member of several including Stage and Screen and History Book Club, my main one of course was SFBC

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