Launch of the Lesering

Bertelsmann brings the economic miracle to Gütersloh

At the beginning of 1950, C. Bertelsmann Verlag’s business prospects are not looking so good. The establishment of a book club opens up a new sales channel, as precisely described in the founding letter of May 31, 1950: Sales representatives sign up members for “Lesering - Das Bertelsmann Buch,” which offers them a publishing program at very attractive prices. Members can order the titles they want from a catalog and pick them up at participating bookstores. The two-stage model is a huge success. By 1954, the Lesering has one million members and continues to add around 300,000 new members each year up until 1960. Small areas in bookstores are designated as Lesering “Bücherstuben” (book nooks). In 1964 the company opens its first own bookshop. A new type of promotion consists of advertising buses that bring the publisher’s offers directly to customers in cities as “rolling libraries.” Although they are only used briefly, the advertising buses become a symbol of the rise of the Lesering.

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