Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Collective book buying in 18th Century

The key ancestor [of the subscription library] is what contemporaries knew as the “book club” (or occasionally “book society” or even “reading society”). Quite unlike the term’s modern use, describing either a vehicle for those who wish to discuss what they have read (as in the Richard and Judy Book Club, linked to a recently popular television program) or, in a very different context, a commercial publisher’s device for persuading people to buy books they may not really want (as in the Reader’s Digest Book Club of fond memory), the Georgian book club was, like its eventual progeny the subscription library, fundamentally proprietorial—which is to say that it was a circle of individuals who contributed their own hard-earned cash so as to be able to choose and buy certain books collectively.
David Allan, "'The Advantages of Literature': The Subscription Library in Georgian Britain," in Alice Crawford, ed., The Meaning of the Library (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton Univ. Press, 2015), pp. 86-87

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