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Identifying Book Club Editions

Some book club editions look like first editions, but they seldom are. This page provides images for some of the tell-tale signs of the book club edition.


The book on the left is the first trade edition; the one on the right is a book club. A book club edition is quite often of smaller size and printed on lower quality paper than the regular trade edition. There may be other subtle differences in the jacket design. Note the position of the letter “R” in “BEAR” and the position of the yellow flower above (or in the case of the book club, behind) the “A” of “JEAN”.


Another aspect of what is often a cheaper overall design is the absence of a headband on some book club editions. The picture at left shows the top page edges of a book club edition and the first trade edition of the same title. Note the striped headband on the book on the bottom. The book on the top, missing this element, is the book club edition.


Most often, a jacket without a price is a book club edition. Exceptions do occur, primarily with books that can be expected to have a long shelf life and thus are subject to price changes during the life of a single printing. Examples of non-book club books that often have no price include the following: high-end art books, university press books, text books, and some small press books.


Some book club editions are quite blunt about it, with a statement directly on the jacket.


The reverse of the title page may carry an advertising statement.


Many book club editions have a small blind stamp on the lower right hand corner of the back cover. The stamps come in a variety of shapes, including circles, squares, dots, stars, and maple leaves. The sample at left shows, in order, a rectangle, a square, and a maple leaf.


A short string of numbers and capital letters printed vertically near the gutter on one of the back pages is a sign of a book club edition. (Also see Quality Paperback Book Club sample at the bottom of the page.)


A string of four or five numbers in a box of contrasting color on the back cover may be a book club marker. This rule of thumb is fairly reliable for science fiction books, but be careful when applying it to other types. A few mainstream publishers display “numbers in a box” on regular books. Simon & Schuster currently uses an eight digit code — month, year, FPT (Freight Pass-Through) price. McGraw-Hill and Prentice-Hall used boxed code numbers before the ISBN became standard.


Like hardcover book clubs, there is also a paperback book club. Quality Paperback Book Club editions have the following characteristics: 1) no price; 2) (often) an alphanumeric code printed in the margin of the last printed page; 3) the statement “Printed in the USA.” on the back cover. These books may otherwise look just like a regular trade paperback, or may be mistaken for an ARC (advance reading copy).

Initial text and images courtesy of Alice Voith of My Wings Books.

Please send comments to us at Last updated May 17, 2016.

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