Chapter 137 Book Club Editions

One of my regular readers posted an interesting comment in response to my posts about introducing newcomers to antiquarian books.

He writes:

“Getting away from the ‘aquarium’ book sales to book sales in general I have sold BOMC books on eBay for good money because I pointed out to people that BOMC is a good way to get an early edition for fewer dollars than firsts. – I’ve found First Edition (stated) books in BOMC DJ’s and sold them with the BOMC DJ’s (as opposed to throwing one or both away) because it is “one of the few and unique printings to be found this way.” During the same time frame and with the same book other sellers had no bids.

Who is it that makes BOMC a bad word? (OK I know it is an acronym…) It is the booksellers doing it not the buyers! –

Salesmanship with integrity will sell books and bring repeat buyers. Find what the person you are addressing is interested in and let them know there are books on the subject.”

While I generally agree with the idea that Book Club Editions (BCE’s) are not necessarily worthless (they are, in a few cases, the first appearance in print of some important works), I worry that too many booksellers offer BCE’s for sale as true firsts, not necessarily out of malice or intent to defraud, but out of ignorance. More than once, I’ve bought a book online after being assured by the seller it is not a BCE only to have it arrive and be easily identified as a BCE. Many sellers, particularly those new to the trade or those who don’t bother to educate themselves on such things, don’t know how to tell a BCE from a trade edition — something that sounds like it should be easy, but is, in some cases, quite difficult. A good bookseller educates himself about these things, and also clearly identifies a BCE as such when selling one or he probably won’t be in business for long.

First, the definition of Book Club Edition is offered here.

Others have written about identifying BCE’s and much better than I ever could, and their information is below.

For specific guidelines to identifying BCE’s, read this BookThink article and this TomFolio article.

There is also a very helpful illustrated guide to the difference between BCE’s and trade editions at My Wings Books.

Is it possible to build a collection of BCE’s? Perhaps. Part of the fun of collecting books is building an original collection that no one ever thought about before. However, part of the fun of collecting books is also building a collection that has some meaning, not just gathering a group of reading copies. BCE’s are largely regarded as reading copies, because they are almost never the first appearance in print of a given work. Thus, their value in terms of collecting is quite low. That does not mean that BCE’s are worthless. It means that they are not useful to someone trying to build a collection of significance. I know of no collections built solely of BCE’s, though it is an interesting exercise to think about how such a collection might have significant meaning.

I am reminded of the difference between antiquarian booksellers, who usually sell a particular copy of a book — a first edition, a signed copy, an association copy, a copy in a unique binding, a copy in the finest condition — and used booksellers, who usually offer books of all kinds and conditions, largely to people who want reading copies. The book world needs both kinds of sellers, and both kinds of sellers serve a specific purpose. The point is to determine which type of seller you want to be and to work toward that goal.

More importantly, for booksellers who want to be taken seriously, the point is to always clearly identify a book club edition as such when selling a book. Additionally, there are many conflicting opinions in the book world about “supplied” (switched) dustjackets. Again, the point here is to always be clear in your description that a dustjacket has been supplied if you find yourself putting a BCE dustjacket on a first printing of a particular book.

Thanks to Paul for making me think a bit about BCE’s today.

See you in the stacks!

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