Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Book of the Month Clubs Making a Comeback in the Toronto Indie Press Circuit

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Quattro's February Book-of-the-Month Club

Since its surge in the '60s and '70s when the Book of the Month Club Inc. was a corporation with Doubleday and was, like everything else in those days, owned by Time Warner, a lot has changed. Somewhere down the road, this form of proliferating literature lost its caché. Perhaps it was the corporate factor that turned people off: the image of the big, faceless conglomerate randomly picking best-seller paperbacks to ship out to the masses perpetuates the notion that the general reader is not an academic one but merely a mass consumer. Although it still exists in some capacities, loyalty to the model waned and became a marginal occupation associated with housewives and seniors.

Fast forward to present day Toronto where mailboxes sit empty, mail is just bills and book lovers must define their reading habits by new technology and corporate choices. A true bibliophile understands the appeal of the physical library — a product of meticulous cataloguing, a series of choices and the concept of acquisition that the "spineless" ebook cannot compete with. So maybe now’s the time to bring back the modern, revamped version of the Book of the Month Club! The model, unlike the inner-workings of an iPad or even, in this case, having to leave your home to go to the book store, is extremely simple — one payment, 12 books arriving to your mailbox each month. What could be better at this time of uncertainty in readership and the possible extinction of the beloved paperback?

After dozens of articles on the debate over print's survival or its imminent "death by ebook," a successful revival of the Book of the Month Club tradition in Canada (with some tweaking of the kinks which contributed to its failure) would be a definite point for print. And it's already underway! The re-emergence of this practice in the Toronto indie press circuit separates it from the corporate trend and makes it a much more personal, boutique experience than it ever was before. It engages the reader with new authors, becomes a process of discovery, and connects a reader’s private world with a company’s public one in a way which invites support of independent publications — not to mention, it’s any gift-giver’s dream!

Toronto publisher Quattro Books has recently launched a Book of the Month Club modelled after the same format popular in decades past. Quattro's approach, unlike that of the corporations, is nothing short of boutique. Each month's book comes with a themed hand-made bauble — a notebook hand sewn by the trusty Quattro interns or a precious book mark printed on a snowy afternoon at the office and, always, a note from the one who took your package to the post with care. By aiming to establish a personal relationship, publishers like Quattro appeal to the quintessential Canadian reader — the curious, adventurous explorer who savours the words on the page as much as folding back the cover and taking a note or two. All of these ‘little things’ make the patron of the Book of the Month Club more than just a client and their relationship with Quattro unlike what they might have with any other contemporary publishing house.

Evan Munday, publicist at local Coach House Books, also endorses Quattro’s idea by referring to it as a "curated" book selection — a perfect description for the hand-picked quality content and the attention to detail that goes into putting together each package. "It's something more indie publishers with a distinct brand should be (and are) looking at. Some readers are just keen to support the press and have grown to trust their favourite publishers," he asserts. In fact, the Quattro BOM project bears a resemblance to Coach House's own C.H.I.P.s program.

But will young people be open to re-visiting what will be an entirely new form to them? Is it old-fashioned? Sarah Crawley, co-editor of the literary journal Acta Victoriana (est. 1867) at Victoria College, a part of the University of Toronto well-known for its tradition in the literary arts, gives it an emphatic thumbs up! "It seems as though, underlying an interest and appreciation for new technology that offers efficiency and practicality, many people — and students in particular — truly wish to have contact with personal, handcrafted and artistic products from the literary industry,” she notes. This sentiment is mirrored in Acta Victoriana’s recent decision to stay in print instead of offering their content only online — a choice which was highly supported by the student body. Sarah has also noticed, “There seems to have recently been more enthusiasm for independent publications, zine fairs, etc.” and Quattro's Book of the Month Club fits in as a “wonderful way to allow people to participate in indie press culture in a really accessible way that would hopefully encourage them to explore indie presses further."

Instead of hokey and old-fashioned, the new and improved Book of the Month Club headed by Toronto’s independent presses like Quattro is "an oldie but a goodie"! So tickle your literary taste buds with the publisher’s varied selection of poetry and novellas and find out more about BOM Club at Quattro here:

Monica Georgieff is in her 2nd year studying English and Book and Media Studies. In addition to campus publications The Varsity and the Strand, she has contributed to several Canadian literary publications, interned with indie presses in Toronto and organized forums about Authorship and the Public Sphere at Victoria College, University of Toronto. Monica designs postcards which she refuses to send and finds happiness in knowing those stains on the sidewalk are just millions of people’s old gum. She currently resides in a 5X5 ft. crawlspace in downtown Toronto with her stack of Penguin Classics and a collection of boxed wines.

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