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Beware the Ides of March - BooksDirect? Well, BCA
find out pros/cons of various speciality book clubs to "sign - up" for each from ONE website .
All the clubs are related to BCA (Book Clubs Associates)
Variety on offer
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I was intrigued by this website's claim in their logo to be "your guide to the best books" and decided to check their claim out for myself. Accordingly, I visited the website one blustery March afternoon – yes, the 15th, should you be curious about my title – to see what there was on offer (via the mutualpoints.com/themutual.net portal website for maximum benefits to my visit should it prove productive…).
I was, of course, well aware that one person’s view of “the BEST books” is as different to another’s as are the colours in the spectrum to each other, and wondered exactly what this BOOK CLUB had to offer.
Before I go any further, I would like to clarify one point. Books Direct is NOT in itself a book club - only a portal through which you can access many different book clubs and their websites! And ALL the book clubs listed belong to Book Club Associates, although they are run as separate clubs with different emphases.
As such, the "purchase obligation" below is irrelevant and MISLEADING - as the different book clubs have different obligations. I will discuss these further in my summarising comments.
As I stared at the webpage, my attention was caught by a moving message at the bottom of the page:
“Books Direct: Your guide to the best books! “Welcome to Books Direct! “Your guide to over 20 UK Books Clubs “Wide range of clubs to suit all interests… “Great joining offers… “Discounted books… “Information on how to join…”
Each phrase occurred in turn and then the series started again – it was almost mesmerizing. Up the Left hand side of the page were the logos from several of the available book clubs – many of which I had already been a member of at some time in the past – I was surprised to see some of them, as they had not previously been part of Book Club Associates.
Not previously part of BCA: TSP - "The Softback Preview" - which has as their "enticement" - "BUY 3 BOOKS for £3 - and never have to buy another book (unless, of course you forget to cancel the editor's expensive choice each magazine which arrives - more frequently than monthly)" - and conveniently forgets that paying postage and packing adds to that basic price as well. Their speciality used to be "hardback sized softback (paperback) books at a fraction of the hardback price" often published simultaneously with the original hardback book.
My husband used to be a member of this club before it was absorbed into the BCA. He quit when he received too many books he believed he had cancelled - if your post is unreliable, these are a BAD idea - because it is quite expensive to return unwanted books.
I had also joined this club several years ago because it offered a document case along with the initial “3 books for £3” - and was disgusted to receive a voucher worth £5 off a further purchase instead of the promised case - as nothing in the selection had a price under £7.99 - and none of the books under £10.99 interested me in the least. I was unwilling IN PRINCIPLE to purchase a further book (when I had been PROMISED to never have to buy another book) – and I REALLY had wanted the free document case in the first place.
TSP had been associated with “Books for Children" - which offered a "Spot the Dog" book and soft toy as an enticement to join. I was a member of this club while my children were small, and found their attitude much better than that of the corresponding BCA Children's Book Club which I had also joined. [I believe both of the children's clubs have been combined under the title "Books for Children" now that the smaller group was absorbed by BCA. The title was obviously a more commercially viable, modern and attractive choice. The selection of good children's books has been diluted however, with fewer books offered at what appear to me to be higher prices].
All of the original BCA speciality clubs can also be joined from this site: - The Ancient and Medieval Book Club - The Fantasy & Science Fiction Club – The Arts Guild – the History Guild, Military and Aviation, Mystery & Thriller, Railway Book Club, World Books – in all there are over 20 different clubs affiliated to Book Club Associates which you can join from this site. In all they offer thousands of choices – if you only have the time to access them.
When I was a member of BCA clubs before, there was a common pricing across all of the clubs, with a main magazine sent to you which offered the books chosen for your own particular club – with a selection of leaflets which were common to ALL the book clubs – with seasonal variations in special offers. This appears to be the case still as regards many of the clubs, with World Books, Just Good Books, Books for Children and other clubs having an overlap of books – and leaflets advertising other clubs included in their mail-out information.
However, at least ONE of the clubs assimilated has retained its own pricing structure – BOL.com – which regularly has a list of bestsellers at 60% or more off – and which appears to retain a measure of independence. Certainly the prices appear cheaper on the whole.
It is quite easy to navigate around this site – with a home page, and various categories to guide you – the top tabs to navigate the site are: Home – Benefits – Club of the Month – Bestsellers – Cookery – What’s New – however, the main function of the site is to attract you to click on one of the links to join a book club – and to this end the book club banners flash and entice.
The main benefit listed under "Benefits" – is the “discounts” which are available through the bulk-buying capacity of the club – that is why, they suggest, there is a commitment to buy further books. The logic of that statement escaped me. The “Club of the Month” this month is MANGO - for some reason it has been featured quite a lot. The “Bestsellers” all seem to be promoting WorldBooks – while the “Cookery” tab promotes the “Taste” club… really, the links all seem to introduce you to more books via the individual websites – with variable commitment, but with less choice than they lead you to believe, if you are looking for a particular book in most instances.
To actually try this site for you, I searched through all the clubs that were on offer. Personally speaking, I found it difficult to find anything I liked despite the “thousands” of books “available” as access to the extra books appears to be through the actual club websites; I found with my eclectic tastes that no one “club” truly expressed my personality and interests. Even looking for specific books was a disappointment – as despite a projected discount on books – I felt I could get many books I wanted cheaper at the supermarket new, without paying any postage.
I decided that the best club for my purposes was going to be BOL.com – who offered the best discount over the entire period of commitment – and cheapest postage – rather than offering a “free” gift (and expensive commitment). Postage on the other clubs is a flat rate of £2.95 to £3.95 regardless of number of books purchased. On that blustery 15th of March I ordered three books (for the free postage) – paid online in advance and awaited my delivery.
Less than a week later the first book arrived – with no information – except a “sorry we were out of stock - here is your book” invoice. Another week later, the original package dispatched arrived with a note that “White Moguls” was out of stock but would follow shortly. For some reason I really found this funny! But there was no trouble receiving the books, and they will never send me a book I have not ordered nor insist that I cancel THEIR choice made for me
My only commitment is to purchase at least one other book before 15th September 2004 – i.e. within the first six months. So far nothing has really taken my fancy – I prefer to buy a book I really want to read - and I haven’t yet chosen my book – but with postage of only £1 per book or free if I purchase three or more books, whatever I choose should not break the bank. All I need to do now is find a suitable book…
To summarise: IF you chose to join a book club via this site, you will find yourself with certain commitments – ranging from NO OBLIGATION (except to receive a certain number of magazines and cancel any automatic choices or receive whether you want or no) – to ONE FURTHER BOOK within first six months - to a MINIMUM NUMBER of purchases within the first six months/year - or even ONE purchase per quarterly magazine for the life of your membership. Your main commitment seems to be to continue to receive their magazine for a minimum period of at least six months to a year and to purchase according to the club you have joined during that time.
YOU CHOOSE an OBLIGATION LEVEL YOU WANT and BALANCE the COST against ANY BENEFITS to be RECEIVED from your PROJECTED MEMBERSHIP. In ALL cases, Book Club Associates reserve the right to deny you membership to ANY CLUB you propose to join - although I have not met ANYONE who has been REFUSED yet – I have been simultaneously a member of multiple clubs in their group - if YOU are the EXCEPTION to this RULE - please let me know in the comments and I will UPDATE this accordingly.
On the whole I found the website quite misleading. It was not easy to choose the club you wanted because you did not have any comparison features on the site - you had to visit each site in turn and remember which site offered which benefits. And there are other book clubs / societies offering better quality books with better bindings, such as The Folio Society.
If you are wanting someone else to choose your reading material for you each month and send you books regularly, according to your choice of speciality club, this is a very helpful site, as you can choose a club to suit your interests.
But if you just want a bargain - I think there are better bargains to be found elsewhere...