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Reader's Digest is a monthly general-interest family magazine co-founded in 1922 by Lila Bell Wallace and DeWitt Wallace, and based in Chappaqua, New Yorkmarker, United States of Americamarker. The Audit Bureau of Circulation says Reader's Digest is the best-selling consumer magazine in the USAmarker, with a circulation of over 8 million copies in the United States, and a readership of 38 million as measured by Mediamark Research (MRI). According to MRI, Reader's Digest reaches more readers with household incomes of $100,000+ than Fortune, The Wall Street Journal, Business Week and Inc. combined. Global editions of Reader's Digest reach an additional 40 million people in more than 70 countries, with 50 editions in 21 languages. It has a global circulation of 17 million, making it the largest paid circulation magazine in the world. It is also published in braille, digital, audio, and a version in large type called Reader's Digest Large Print.

The magazine is compact, with its pages roughly half the size of most American magazines'. Hence, in the summer of 2005, the U.S. edition adopted the slogan, "America in your pocket." In January 2008, it was changed to "Life well shared."


logo used until 2007

The magazine was started by Americanmarker Dewitt Wallace who, while recovering from injuries from World War I, had the novel idea to gather a sampling of favorite articles on many subjects from various monthly magazines, sometimes condensing them, and to combine them into one magazine. Since its inception, Reader's Digest has maintained a staunchly conservative and anti-communist perspective on political and social issues.

The first international edition was published in the United Kingdommarker in 1938 and was sold at 2 shillings.

The first "Word Power" was published in the January 1945 edition. The author's name, Wilfred Funk, was disclosed in the February 1945 issue.

In 1952 the magazine published "Cancer by the Carton", a series of articles that linked smoking with lung cancer. This first brought the dangers of smoking to public attention which, up to then, had ignored the health threats.

The magazine's parent company, The Reader's Digest Association, Inc. (RDA), became a publicly traded corporation in 1990. Since 2005, RDA reported a net loss each year. In March 2007, Ripplewood Holdings LLC led a consortium of investors who bought the company through a leveraged buy-out for $2.8 billion.

From 2002 through 2006, Reader's Digest conducted a vocabulary competition in schools throughout the United States called Reader's Digest National Word Power Challenge (NWPC). In 2007, the magazine said it had decided not to have the competition for the 2007-2008 school year, "but rather to use the time to evaluate the program in every respect, including scope, mission, and model for implementation."

In 2006, the magazine published three more new editions in Sloveniamarker, Croatiamarker and Romaniamarker. In October 2007, the Digest expanded in Serbiamarker. The magazine's licensee in Italymarker stopped publishing in December 2007. The magazine launched in The People's Republic of Chinamarker in 2008.

In 2010, the U.S. edition of the magazine was planning to decrease its circulation to 5.5 million, from 8 million, to publish 10 times a year rather than 12, and to increase digital offerings. It was also planning to reduce its number of celebrity profiles and how-to features, and increase the number of inspiring spiritual stories and stories about the military.

On 24 August 2009 RDA announced it was filing pre-arranged Chapter 11 bankruptcy for its U.S.marker operations to restructure its $2.2 billion debt and continue operations.

Sweepstakes agreement

In 2001, 32 states attorneys general reached agreements with the company and other sweepstakes operators to settle allegations that they tricked the elderly into buying products because they were a "guaranteed winner" of a lottery. The settlement required the companies to expand the type size of notices in the packaging that no purchase is necessary to play the sweepstakes, and to:

  1. Establish a "Do Not Contact List" and refrain from soliciting any future "high-activity" customers unless and until Reader's Digest actually makes contact with that customer and determines that the customer is not buying because he or she thinks that the purchase will improve his or her chances of winning.
  2. Send letters to individuals who spend more than $1,000 in a six-month period telling them that they are not required to make purchases to win the sweepstakes, that making a purchase will not improve their chances of winning and that, in fact, all entries have the same chance to win whether or not the entry is accompanied by a purchase.

Direct marketing

RDA offers many mail-order products included with "sweepstakes" or contests. U.S. Reader's Digest and the company's other U.S. magazines do not use sweepstakes in their direct mail promotions.

International editions

Although Reader's Digest was founded in the U.S., its international editions have made it the best-selling monthly magazine in the world. The magazine's worldwide circulation including all editions has reached 17 million copies and 70 million readers.

Reader's Digest is currently published in 52 editions and 35 languages and is available in over 100 countries, including Sloveniamarker, Croatiamarker, Romaniamarker, and the People's Republic of Chinamarker in 2008.

Its 49 international editions, which account for about 50% of the magazine's trade volume, are controlled from the American headquarters. Except for two or three articles in each local issue, they are entirely composed of articles taken from the U.S. and other editions, creating a mix of articles from many regions of the world. The local editorial staff comprise an office of people who select from the U.S. and other editions and commission local content pieces, subject — in rare cases — to the approval of the American headquarters. The selected articles are then translated by local translators and the translations edited by the local editors to make them match the "well-educated informal" style of the American edition.

List of international editions

Over the 87 years, the company has published versions in various languages in different countries, and for different regions, and for people around the world.

Usually these versions started out as mere translations of the American version of the magazine, but over time the international editions often became unique, providing local material more germane for local readers.Local editions that still publish the bulk of the American Reader's Digest are usually titled with a qualifier, such as the Portuguese edition, Selecções do Reader's Digest (Selections from Reader's Digest), or the Swedish edition, Reader's Digest Det Bästa (The Best of Reader's Digest).

The list is sorted by year. Some countries had versions but do not anymore; for example, the Danish version of Reader's Digest (Det Bedste) ceased publication in 2005 and was usurped by the Swedish version (Reader's Digest Det Bästa), and as a result, the Swedish version covers stories for both countries. The Italian version (Selezione) ran for 60 years until it was shut down in 2007, and the Japanese version ran from September 1946 until ceasing publication in February 1986.

Arabic editions

The first Reader's Digest publication in the Arab World was printed in Egypt during Gamal Nasser's (1950s) regime. The license was eventually terminated. The second effort and the first Reader's Digest franchise agreement was negotiated through the efforts of Frederick Pittera, in 1976, an American entrepreneur, who sold the idea to Lebanon's former Foreign Minister, Dr. Lucien Dahdah, then son-in-law of Suleiman Franjeh, President of Lebanon. Dr. Dahdah partnered with Ghassan Al Tueni, (former Lebanon Ambassador to the United Nations, and publisher of Al Nahar newspaper, Beirut), in publishing Reader's Digest in the Arabic language. It was printed in Cairo for distribution throughout the Arab world under title Al- Mukhtar. In format, Al-Mukhtar was the same as the U.S. edition with only 75% of the editorial content. Dr. Philip Hitti, Chairman of Princeton Universitymarker's Department of Oriental Languages and a team of Arabic advisors counseled on what would be of interest to Arabic readers. The publication of Al-Mukhtar was terminated by Reader's Digest in April 1993.

Canadian edition

The Canadianmarker edition first appeared in February 1948, and today the vast majority of it is Canadian content. All major articles in the August 2005 edition and most of the minor articles were selected from locally-produced articles that matched the Digest style. There is usually at least one major American article in most issues.

"Life's Like That" is the Canadian name of "Life in These United States." All other titles are taken from the American publication. Recent "That's Outrageous" articles have been using editorials from the Calgary Sun.

Under new management—the new editor is Robert Goyette—the Canadian edition continues to publish.

Indian edition

The Indianmarker edition was first published in 1954. Its circulation then was 40,000 copies. Today, the magazine is published in India by Living Media India Ltd., and sold over 600,000 copies monthly in 2008 — a fifteen-fold increase. It not only includes local Indian articles but international articles as well.


Reader's Digest has published bi-monthly a series of softcover anthology books called Reader's Digest Select Editions (previously known as Reader's Digest Condensed Books) such as 700 Years of Classical Treasures: A Tapestry in Music and Words. During the 1970s, there was also a Reader's Digest Press which published full-length, original works of non-fiction.

See also



  • John Bainbridge, Little Wonder. Or, the Reader's Digest and How It Grew, New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1945.
  • John Heidenry, Theirs Was the Kingdom: Lila and DeWitt Wallace and the Story of the Reader's Digest, New York/London: W.W. Norton, 1993
  • Samuel A. Schreiner, The Condensed World of the Reader's Digest, New York: Stein and Day, 1977.
  • James Playsted Wood, 1958: Of Lasting Interest: The Story of the Reader's Digest, Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1958.
  • Clem Robyns, "The Internationalisation of Social and Cultural Values: On the Homogenization and Localization Strategies of the Reader's Digest", in Jana Králová & Zuzana Jettmarová, Translation Strategies and Effects in Cross-Cultural Value Transfers and Shifts, Prague: Folia Translatologica, 83-92, 1994
  • Joanne P. Sharp, Condensing the Cold War: Reader's Digest and American Identity, University of Minnesota Press, 2000.
  • Joanne P. Sharp, Hegemony, popular culture and geopolitics: the Reader's Digest and the construction of danger, Political Geography, Elsevier, 1996.

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