Those with very long memories will just about recall the time when as well as your Beechams Powders, you came away from your local branch of Boots the Chemist with your Boots library book. As a rival to public libraries, the Nottingham chemist was extremely successful, and if you browse through the titles in well-established second-hand bookshops, you’ll still find one or two bearing the Boots shield on the front. But in the prosperous 1950s, people began to be able to afford their own books, and the problem was simply in deciding which ones to choose – and up sprang the book-of-the-month clubs. That principle is now being applied in the US to a new Software of the Month Club which, in just a few months, has reportedly picked up 45,000 subscribers. The club is the brainchild of Sheldon Sturges, president of Sturges Publishing, a Princeton, New Jersey firm that has been active in children’s publishing – and Sturges believes the concept will radically change the way people buy software. Subscriptions are being sold through schools, direct mail and reseller channels, including nearly 200 Computer Factory, Computerland, Electronic Boutique and Computer Depot stores. The software club has two categories. For kids aged three to 20, there’s one called The Learning Advantage, for adults there’s The Software Selection Service. The Learning Advantage has four different services. Boot is for ages 3 to 6; Mighty Micro is for ages 6 to 10; Fast Track is for 11- to 16-year-olds; and Competitive Edge is for ages 16 to 20. For a monthly subscription fee ranging from $20 for Boot to $40 for the other services, members receive one or two software disks each month, a monthly newspaper, Future Tech, a monthly newsletter for parents, The Bank Street Software, and a magazine for children called Mighty Micro, which includes games, puzzles, cartoons, posters and information about the monthly software selection. The adult series comes in both MS-DOS and Apple versions. And there’s already a GS Software of the Month offering for the hot new Apple IIgs. The Learning Advantage was initially just for Apple users, but has recently been established for IBM Personals and Personalikes, plus the Tandy 1000. All of which suggests that those two UK high street giants now deep into computer and software retailing, Boots and W H Smith, should hark back to their pasts, Boots with a software lending library, and W H Smith with a Software of the Month club.
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