I’ve talked a little on my Wednesday posts about how publishers can stay relevant when many of their services (such as printing and distribution) are no longer necessary. I’m glad to report at least some interesting experimentation going on. Sourcebooks has announced an online reading club, " " for romance fans. For $9.99 per month, members get one free e-book each month, which they choose from among four featured titles.
$10 for a book isn’t that great, but members also get exclusive discounts off other e-books (as low as $1.67 per title according to the site). Plus, members become part of an online book club with “online parties and live events” and the option to join “focus groups, panels, and surveys,” so this may especially appeal to people who like social networking through books. That’s probably a small segment of readers overall, but sites like Goodreads and the Amazon Kindle Boards show that some readers enjoy online book discussions, and romance readers may be more social than most.
It seems to me that this kind of club will work best for publishers or imprints with a narrower focus (as Sourcebooks is focusing on romance), although through-the-mail-book clubs sometimes offer a wide range of fiction and nonfiction. As I mentioned in my post about publisher relevancy, publishers may benefit from deciding what they want their name to mean (beyond “quality” which they all claim) and promoting a clear brand.