Zooba Book Club - The Good And The Not So Good

By: Franjo Tarandek

Zooba Book Club: Introduction

When asked about what would it take to improve the membership experience, an average book club member - or potential member - usually brings up two things: scratch the "negative option" marketing method and give us free shipping. Surprisingly - or not - a few years back someone actually listened to the voice of a consumer and came up with a concept that included both suggestions: meet Zooba Book Club.

Zooba actually started out as an e-mail marketing firm - or, to put it in a politically correct way, an opt-in service that presented the broad world of knowledge in a fun and accessible way. Basically what they did was send e-mail newsletters with high quality, specialized content on variable topics to subscribers; the e-mails were embedded with marketing messages suited to the topic, most of which had to do with, you guessed it, books.

Zooba's success (at their peak they had over 2.8 million subscribers) did not go unnoticed and in 2001 the media giant Bertelsmann bought the firm and transformed it into an online book service that we know today.

Let's take a closer look at it.

Selection

Zooba Book Club offers an extensive assortment (at the time of this writing over 6500 titles) of best selling fiction and non-fiction - mostly full-length hardcover editions - spanning a wide range of categories: contemporary fiction; literary fiction; mysteries & thrillers; science fiction; romantic reads; African American; children's; biographies & memoirs; health, mind & body; cooking & entertainment etc.

The emphasis is on contemporary literature: if you're an avid reader with an interest in latest bestsellers from a variety of genres, then Zooba might just be the right choice for you. The club carries the majority of books currently reigning the bestseller lists and the ones that have done so in the past few months. There is also plenty of somewhat older titles by many of the widely popular contemporary authors; you can find entire backlists by Danielle Steel, Stephen King, Sandra Brown, John Grisham, Patricia Cornwell, Nicholas Sparks, James Patterson, Nora Roberts, Dean Koontz, Sylvia Browne - to name just a few. An added attraction is, most of these books aren't readily available in book stores - not the hardcover versions, anyway.

However, some authors - such as Jackie Collins, Sidney Sheldon or Tom Clancy - are represented by only a few (usually the latest) titles. To some degree this might be due to the Zooba editors' preferences, but it probably has more to do with the deals the club had managed to secure with the respective publishers. However it may be, if there's a specific author you are particularly interested in, checking her/his representation before joining is a good idea.

Non-fiction is also one of Zooba Book Club's stronger points. There's something for everyone: from arts to politics, from science to religion. Current popular titles, stuff that sells, prevail here too, but there are also many books which do not receive that much attention but offer sizable value nonetheless: reference books, encyclopedias etc. These are actually where you can strike the most incredible bargains: some of these items retail for well over $100 even at online retailers, which means that at Zooba Book Club you can save $100 or more on a single book!

Visually impaired readers will be pleased to learn that large print editions are a common occurrence at Zooba - plenty of popular bestsellers have their large print counterparts. In regular retail channels these can be somewhat pricey; at Zooba Book Club, however, everything is still just $9.95.

If you're into classics, however, you will probably be disappointed. While Zooba's library is not entirely devoid of them, they are few and far in between. If that is where your primary interest lies, you'll do better if you stick to buying your books at online or brick-and-mortar stores.

Zooba: How It Works

Joining Zooba Book Club is quite easy and takes only a few minutes. Just pick your first book and click on "Start With This" or "Start Now" button. You will be taken to a new page where you will need to enter your personal information. This includes your name, address and e-mail address, while phone number is optional. You will also be required to provide a user name and password; these are necessary so you can enter the member website later on. Read Zooba's terms of membership, check the appropriate box to indicate you agree with it, then submit the information. And that's it. You're in. Your first book will be shipped to you right away.

Zooba will send you one book of your choice each month on the same day you became a member and charge the credit card you provided $9.95. To let Zooba know which book you want to receive, the first order of business you should attend to as a member is create your personalized Reading List. This is easy enough; just browse or search through the offerings on Zooba.com and fill the List with what you'd like to read. Don't be afraid to go a little nuts there: you can add, remove, or change the order of books on your Reading List whenever you like. The top available book on your List will be the one you receive from Zooba automatically once a month.

If your Reading List is empty, Zooba will send you periodic e-mails reminding you to add books to it; however, be advised that you will be charged $9.95 even if you fail to do so - and no book will be sent to you. Not to worry, though; even if that happens, you will be given 30 more days to order the book included in your monthly fee. You can do so simply by placing a book on your Reading List. However, to avoid such a situation altogether, the best thing is to always keep plenty of books on your Reading List.

Of course, you are not limited to buying just one book per month. Additional books can be had for the same price ($9.95), and shipping is always free. Simply click the "Buy Now" button next to any Zooba.com book. On occasion, you may also be offered specially priced books and merchandise.

Note: in their membership agreement, Zooba states that you may be limited to buying 10 additional books per month. Supposedly, this is to ensure the books are intended for your personal use only and not for resale or any other commercial purpose. However, I can see this becoming an issue only if you continually kept buying really large quantities of books which you couldn't possibly need for your personal use.

Commitment & Canceling

By joining Zooba Book Club, you agree to keep your membership for two additional months, or buy two more books for $9.95 (with free shipping), whichever comes first. That's it; not exactly a "till death do us part" affair.

To cancel, log in to your account on Zooba Book Club website, click on Account, go to Contact Us and select Cancel My Account from the drop-down menu box. And you're done. No need for e-mails, phone calls, written requests, or whatever.

It goes without saying that you will be welcome back should you decide to rejoin at a later date. You can do so simply by visiting the club web site and enrolling again. However, make sure not to repeat the procedure (cancel/rejoin) too often, as Zooba does not look upon this kind of behavior with a sympathetic eye, and may reject your application.

Conclusion

The good:

$9.95/book flat rate pricing model
Free shipping on all orders
Broad selection of reading material
Ease of use
Low commitment
No "selection of the month" to deal with

The not so good:

No introductory offer
$9.95/book flat-rate also applies to paperbacks
Shipping is not very speedy

If you are a book enthusiast with a penchant for latest bestsellers from pretty much any genre, joining Zooba Book Club is certainly worth a serious consideration. Let's review some of the points above:

Flat-rate pricing model

Zooba offers the best deal around on new hardcover books. Period. Be it the latest bestseller from your favorite author, one of those expensive cookbooks or a 5-pound encyclopedia, each book will cost you exactly the same: $9.95. Most of the time this will save you at least 35% compared to even the largest online retailers, but in some cases the savings can be nothing short of staggering.

On the other hand, the same price also applies to any $8 mass market paperback; if that is your book format of choice, then Zooba is probably not for you. Even if the price is not the biggest issue, you won't actually find that many paperbacks in its library.

Free shipping - always

At Zooba, there's no need to plan your purchases in advance in order to group them into bundles worth $25 or more and earn yourself free shipping. You can really afford to be impulsive: buy a book today, then another one in a couple of days if you so fancy, each order will cost you the same straight $9.95, total. This liberty in shopping, combined with the simplicity and ease of use (one click on "Buy Now" button and you're done) will likely change the way you shop for books.

The flip side of the deal is, shipping is not too speedy. It will usually take about 7 business days for the book to be delivered to you. This might not matter much if it's one of the automatic shipments; the time between receiving these is consistent, and many people say it actually comes as a surprise to them, it's sort of like getting a birthday present every month from themselves. But if you made an impulse buy, the prolonged delivery time might just make you a weensy bit impatient...

No "Featured Selections" to deal with

Gone is the need of having to worry about monthly selections, which most other book clubs put you through; a big plus for some people. With Zooba, every book you receive is a selection of the month, but of your choosing. On the other hand, those enticing introductory offers are gone too. Getting 5 or 6 books for 99? can be a powerful allurement, even if the deal does get diluted when shipping costs are added.

Bottom line

If you:

like simple and straightforward
don't fancy messing with Featured Selections
appreciate substantial savings compared to online retailers
buy at least one book a month (of course you do)


chances are, Zooba (http://www.bookclubs-online.com/zooba/) will make you quite happy; you should give it a try. The commitment is minimal, only two more books after you accept the introductory package: sufficient to decide whether or not you like the Zooba experience, yet small enough not to be much of a burden if it turns out you don't.


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