Is Book Magazine a marketing tool? Do ducks quack? So what?

Book Magazine is 50% owned by Barnes & Noble and has an astounding 1.3 million circulation. But the Philadelphia Inquirer reports its publishers are quick to claim the magazine “is no marketing tool.”


If you sign up for (the B & N) Readers’ Advantage, you get Book automatically in the mail. Of the $25 annual fee, $10 goes to Book for a one-year subscription (ordinarily $14.95). Thanks to the RA program, Book is already bigger than the New Yorker (857,495) and way ahead of the New York Review of Books (121,489).

When asked about B & N’s involvement, publisher Mark Gleason responds:

“We’re an independent magazine” he says. B & N simply thinks it’s “a great magazine” that interests the company’s customers: “To their credit, they recognize that the magazine is only of the highest value to readers if it’s got an independent editorial voice.”

My take: Book is a customer magazine, as the British call it. That doesn’t make it a house organ for B&N nor does it make it less of a quality publication with an independent voice for its readers. In the UK, the highest circulation magazines (and some of the most popular) are sponsored by corporations for their customers in much the same way as Book Magazine is distributed. In the end, the customer will determine if Book is a quality, worthwhile publication…not those in the magazine publishing world who want to de-value it because it is successful.

How can I declare it successful, you ask?

Well, today in the New York Times, the report of Barnes & Noble’s changing of the guard, includes this information:

To attract and keep customers, Barnes & Noble has created a membership program providing steeper discounts to heavy buyers, but that has been unexpectedly popular and has recently cramped the company’s profits.

So, put the two stories together and you discover B & N has started a relationship marketing program that targets its most valuable customers; customers willing to pay $25 a year to be a member. In addition to offering these highly-valued customers a discount, it sends them a magazine about a topic they obviously enjoy and what happens? They buy even more books…more books than anyone expected.

It’s a magazine loved by Barnes and Noble’s best customers who buy books they read about in it. Call it what you want, it doesn’t matter. It works for all involved. Except, maybe, the New York Review of Books.

Anyway, aren’t all advertising-supported magazines marketing tools?