Publisher:Science Fiction Book Club
Doubleday created the Science Fiction Book Club in 1953, offering one selection per month, with the first book appearing in March. This practice continued until July 1969, when the club began offering a second selection. Both books were sent to members who chose to receive them (or forgot to mail back the selection card!) Around this time additional selections were offered in seasonal announcements (Winter, Spring, etc.) This gave members a choice of up to 32 new books each year, while occasionally making available "alternate selectons" and cross-over selections from other Doubleday book clubs. These alternate selections were not automatically sent to club members. The practice of offering alternate selections gradually grew over the decades, from one or two in the 1970s, to a dozen or more in the late 2000s.
In the beginning the selections were mostly reprints of books originally published by Doubleday's trade division, and were of comparable quality. As the years went by, more publishers' books were made available as the monthly selection. These printings had to be reset to conform to Doubleday's printing presses, and were mostly of cheaper quality.
The German media corporation Bertelsmann A.G. purchased the Bantam Doubleday Dell publishing group in 1986, and in the process acquired the Doubleday book clubs, including the SFBC. In 2000, Bertelsmann and Time Warner (the two largest media conglomerates in the world) combined their direct book sales (Doubleday Direct Inc. and Book-of-the-Month Club), creating Bookspan. In May of 2007, it was announced that long-time SFBC Editor-in-Chief Ellen Asher would be taking "early retirement", and Senior Editor Andrew Wheeler was also let go. Soon afterward Bertelsmann purchased Time Warner's interest in Bookspan. In July 2008 Bertelsmann sold the company (along with BMG Music Service and Columbia House DVD Club) to a private investment firm, the Najafi Companies, who changed the company's name to Direct Brands Inc. (The BMG Music Service was dissolved in 2009.) In the Age of the Internet, the future of the SFBC and all direct sales publishing is in question. The current Senior Editor is Rome Quezada and their website is www.sfbc.com.
In the late 60s, the SFBC began publishing first world hardcover editions of titles that were paperback originals. In 1970, they started publishing some hardcover editions several months before their paperback editions. These latter editions usually appeared under the Nelson Doubleday imprint. This imprint was also used for exclusive book club editions of omnibus volumes, making all Nelson Doubleday publications true first editions. As a rule (with few exceptions) when the book club edition preceded the paperback, the Nelson Doubleday imprint was used. When the book club edition followed the paperback, the original publisher was credited on the SFBC edition. When Bertelsmann purchased Doubleday and its book clubs, the Nelson Doubleday imprint was retired and the GuildAmerica Books imprint was created.
- Nelson Doubleday (1970-1989)
- The imprint goes back even further as the publisher of Doubleday's original book club editions. The first known SFBC edition to use this imprint was Robert Silverberg's Downward to the Earth.
- GuildAmerica Books (1989-1998)
- In a move to distinguish its book club division (Doubleday Direct) from its trade publications (The Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group), Bertelsmann created this imprint, which lasted until its merger of Doubleday Direct with Book-of-the-Month-Club to form Bookspan.
- The Science Fiction Book Club (1998-present)
- At the end 1996 and the first months of 1997, the SFBC sold a series of six novella-length publications called The Science Fiction Book Club Collection, offering one volume for each selection period. They were discounted to a remarkable (for its time) $2.98 with any additional purchase. This was the first use of the name on any of their publications. It wasn't until 1998 that they began to publish original titles under this imprint, possibly as an effort to create a "brand image" for the Science Fiction Book Club. Later, Bookspan created two sub-imprints: SFBC Science Fiction and SFBC Fantasy.
Over the years, the book club has issued several uniform series including Science Fiction Classics (five volumes each spring, 1978-1981), the Science Fiction Book Club Collection (six award-winning novellas, 1996-1997) and The SFBC 50th Anniversary Collection (40 numbered volumes, 2003-2007).
Until November 1996, no SFBC editions were ever identified as being published by the Science Fiction Book Club. (Ill Met in Lankhmar by Fritz Leiber is the first known publication to credit the SFBC as the publisher.) The publisher as stated in the book was always the original publisher of the title. Even original editions published exclusively for the club carried the Nelson Doubleday imprint. Only in recent years has the Science Fiction Book Club imprint been used on reprints of classic works and original omnibuses (see Original Publications above.)
Cover artwork was identical to the trade edition, so, except for the standardized size of approximately 22cm, the outward appearance showed no indication of the book being a book club reprint. There was never a price printed on the front inside flap, the usual location for trade editions. For thirty-five years (1953-1988), there was the additional slug line "Book Club Edition" printed at the bottom of the front inside flap. (Some book dealers occasionally use the abbreviation "BCE" without indicating that the item for offer is a book club reprint.) This practice ceased sometime in the spring of 1988, possibly because Bertelsmann, who had purchased Doubleday in 1986, began subbing print jobs to other presses. All printings of selections from Doubleday's various book clubs (The Literary Guild, Doubleday Book Club, The Mystery Guild, The History Book Club, The Stephen King Library, etc.) carried the same slug line, so this can't be used as proof that the book was ever an offering of the SFBC. The dustjackets also printed identification numbers (see below) which never appeared within the books themselves.
In 1958 Doubleday began printing a code on or near the last page of text in both their trade and book club editions. Bibliographers have deciphered this code as a printing date. [For more information see Gutter Codes.] These codes can be used by bibliophiles to determine which copies are first printings, thus making them possibly of more value to collectors. This is especially the case when the SFBC edition has been identified as the true first edition. This practice stopped in mid-1987, shortly after Doubleday's purchase by Bertelsmann.
Starting in 1968, a four-digit number was printed on the back inside flap of the dustjacket, which book dealers and collectors use as a de facto catalog number, although there has never been an official statement as to the meaning of this number. In the beginning these numbers were assigned in roughly numerical order, but over the years became somewhat random. Also, some reprints of pre-1968 titles may have been retro-assigned catalog numbers. This number is not printed in the book itself, but appears only on the dust jacket. Without the "Book Club Edition" slug line on the inside flap of the dustjacket (discontinued in 1988), this number has become, along with the lack of a printed price, one of the last true identifiers for book club editions.
The four-digit identifying number was moved from the flap to the back of the dustjacket at the end of 1980. By the mid-1980s four-digit numbers were exhausted and numbers with five digits began to appear. Some titles that had previously been assigned four-digit numbers were reprinted with a "0" prefixed to the original number. Five-digit numbers were used until May 2004, when a new seven-digit numbering system began. (There are some printings which have both a five-digit number and a seven-digit number without any apparent connection between the two.)
The seven-digit numbering system, which assigns the numbers in a rough numerical order, started in the 116nnnn range, and as of December 2012 has reached the 136nnnn range.
Catalog Numbers or Identification Numbers?
In the beginning, when four digits were in use, the addition of a fifth digit turned this number into the catalog number given in the SFBC's announcement flyer. For example, the SFBC printing of John Varley's The Ophiuchi Hotline (1977) has "2205" printed at the bottom of its back flap. The catalog number printed in the December 1977 flyer is "#22053".
Because these numbers were altered in the printed catalog, they can not truly be called a catalog number. As of December 2012, this practice of adding a single digit at the end of the identification number to create a catalog number continues. The (now) seven-digit identification number appears as an eight-digit catalog number in both the hardcopy and online versions of the SFBC catalog. The difference now (since Spring 2004, actually) is that there is a hyphen between the second and third digit of the catalog number. For example: the number which is printed on the back of this SFBC edition's dustjacket, "1353404", appears in the catalog as "13-534046".
Conclusion: It is better to designate the number that is printed on the dustjacket as the publisher's identification number, although it is given in the ISFDB record's ISBN/Catlog # field as long as there is no SFBC-assigned ISBN present on the copyright page. Publisher-assigned ISBNs are another matter, and that is explained in the next section.
For almost forty years, SFBC editions never printed the ISBN of the original edition, and never carried an edition statement (e.g. First Edition, First American Edition). Even when club members were offered a selection originally published by Doubleday itself, their copies had the "First Edition" slug line removed from the copyright page. The club first used an ISBN on their original publications (mostly omnibuses) in 1989 under the GuildAmerica imprint (the first known publication), but this did not become a standard practice until mid-1993. The first ISBNs assigned had the prefix 1-56865- followed by three digits and a checksum. Because only 1,000 publications could be assigned that prefix, it became necessary to obtain a new ISBN prefix. In January 1999, they started using the prefix 0-7394- (followed by four digits and a checksum) from which 10,000 publications could be assigned.
At the end of 2003, the first publications with a new prefix began appearing (1-58288-). This prefix was also limited to 1,000 publications and has been used sparingly since. Fast approaching the limits of the 0-7394- prefix, new prefixes began appearing in rapid succession. 2008 saw the first publication with the prefix 978-1-60751-, 978-1-61523- publications appeared in 2009, and the 978-1-61664- prefix appeared in January 2010. (All of these prefixes are followed by three digits and a checksum). All books with these prefixes are not necessarily published as selections of the SFBC, but they are all published by Bookspan for any one of their various book club divisions.
It was also in the nineties that the book club began reprinting some trade editions without changing the copyright page. This page would include the ISBN of the trade edition, but is not the ISBN for this particular edition. It is not entered into the ISBN field of the ISFDB record for the SFBC edition, but can be recorded in the notes.
Based on observations, it's been seen that there are certain criteria which determine when a book club selection will be assigned a new ISBN:
- Original publications: books that have never been published, indicated in the notes as "First edition". Publisher is shown to be either GuildAmerica (1989-1998) or Science Fiction Book Club (1998-present). (ISBNs were not assigned in the years Nelson Doubleday was the imprint for original publications, though some reprints of those publications may have been assigned ISBNs.)
- Omnibus publications: combining previously published books into one publication, indicated in the notes as "First edition thus". Same publishers as in #1.
- First hardcover publications: book club editions of books that were published only in softcover, either trade paperback or mass-market-size paperback, indicated in the notes as "First hardcover edition". The publisher is usually shown to be the same publisher as the trade edition.
- Hardcover reprints: new editions of out-of-print works, usually those works that are no longer contracted to a trade publisher, indicated in the notes as "Exclusive hardcover". The publisher is usually shown as Science Fiction Book Club.
Summation of SFBC ISBNs
- 1-56865-XXX-X (1989-1999)
- 0-7394-XXXX-X (1999-2008)
- 1-58288-XXX-X (2003-2008)
- 978-1-60751-XXX-X (2008-2009)
- 978-1-61523-XXX-X (2009-2010)
- 978-1-61664-XXX-X (2010)
- 978-1-61129-XXX-X (2010-2011)
- 978-1-61793-XXX-X (2011-2012)
- 978-1-62090-XXX-X (2012-2013)
- 978-1-62490-XXX-X (2013-)
ISFDB Entry Standards
Because of the special circumstances described in the identification section, different standards are required for the entry of SFBC editions into the ISFDB. For more information about entering SFBC editions go to this help page. For information about these Wiki pages, their purpose and entry guidelines go here.
- These tables list club selections and were created from the following sources:
- 1953-2001: The rec.arts.sf.written newsgroup postings based on information provided by SFBC editor Andrew Wheeler
- 1953-1968: Tuck's Encyclopedia, Volume 3, pp. 911-913, with corroboration from the Andrew Wheeler lists
- 1969-1973: The rec.arts.sf.written newsgroup postings of the Andrew Wheeler lists 1969 1970 1971 1972 1973
- 1974-1983: The SFBC announcement flyer, with corroboration from monthly issues of Locus, and the Andrew Wheeler lists
- 1984-2006: The Locus Index to Science Fiction, with corroboration from the Andrew Wheeler lists (through 2001)
- 2007-2008: Locus (hard copies only)
- 2009-present: The SFBC catalog and website
There is an older SFBC list generated from the ISFDB database data in January 2005.