Time-Life Logo
Time-Life building in Rockefeller Center in New York City
Time-Life statue in New York City, in front of the Time-Life building

Time–Life is a creator and direct marketer of books, music, video/DVD, and multimedia products. Its products are sold throughout North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia through television, print, retail, the Internet, telemarketing, and direct sales.

Time-Life was founded in 1961 as the book division of Time Inc. It took its name from Time Inc.'s cornerstone magazines, Time and Life, but remained independent of both. During 1966, Time Life combined its book offerings with music collections (two to five records) and packaged them as a sturdy box set. Throughout the '70s and '80s, the selection of books, music and videos grew and was diversified into more genres. When record labels stopped producing vinyl albums in 1990, Time Life switched to CD only. In the mid-90s, Time–Life acquired Heartland Music, with the Heartland Music label now appearing as a brand.

At the end of 2003 Time Life was acquired by Ripplewood Holdings L.L.C. and ZelnickMedia Corporation to become part of Direct Holdings Worldwide L.L.C. Direct Holdings Americas Inc. operates as a leader in the sale of music and video products under the Time Life brand. Since 2003, Direct Holdings US Corp is the legal name of Time Life, and is no longer owned by its former parent Time Warner (formerly Time Inc.). In March 2007, Ripplewood led a group that took The Reader's Digest Association private and has since put Time Life as a division of RDA. By 2003 onward, a disclaimer on the copyright stated that it is "not affiliated with Time Warner Inc. or Time Inc.", who owns the Time and Life magazines which this company name came from.


Book series

The Time Life company was founded by Time, Incorporated in 1961, as a book marketing division. It takes its name from Time and Life magazines, two of the most popular weeklies of the era. It was based in the Time Life building in Rockefeller Center.

Time Life gained fame as a seller of book series that would be mailed to households in monthly installments, operating as book sales clubs. Several of these book series garnered substantial critical acclaim unusual for a mass-market mail order house.[citation needed] For example, the series Library of Photography of the early-1970s featured very high-quality duo-tone printing for its black-and-white reproductions in its original edition, and was of course able to draw on Life Magazine's vast archive of journalistic and art photographs from virtually every major photographer; Foods Of The World featured contributions by M.F.K. Fisher, James Beard, Julia Child, Craig Claiborne and many others; and The Good Cook series, edited by Richard Olney, featured contributions from Jeremiah Tower, Jane Grigson, Michel Lemonnier and many others. Other series of high regard covered nature and the sciences, as well as the history of world civilizations. The science books are interesting as ephemera of their time. The content of these series was more or less encyclopedic, providing the basics of the subjects in the way it might be done in a lecture aimed at the general public. There was also a series on contemporary life in various countries of the world. Some other series are much less highly regarded, especially the later output as the publisher moved away from soberly presented science and history towards sensationalism, pop-history, and DIY-themed books. The books, whatever their quality, are easy to find at low prices on the used-book market, due to their being published in the millions of copies. (Some of the items in this list may also be single books not in a series, but followed the same types of themes as the book series.)

  • The American Wilderness[1]
  • The Art of Sewing[1]
  • A Child's First Library Of Learning, a series of educational books by Time–Life
  • Classics of the Old West[1] (not the same as "The Old West")
  • Collector's Library of the Civil War[1]
  • Curious and Unusual Facts
  • The Emergence of Man[1]
  • Enchanted World Series, a best-selling Time–Life series, 21 volumes
  • The Encyclopedia of Collectibles[1]
  • The Epic of Flight[1]
  • Family Library ("How Things Work in your Home", "The Time-Life Book of the Family Car", "The Time-Life Family Legal Guide", and "The Time-Life Book of Family Finance")[1]
  • Foods of the World[1]
  • The Good Cook[1]
  • Great Ages of Man—history of each of the major civilizations of human history[1]
  • The Great Cities[1]
  • Home Repair and Improvement[1]
  • Human Behavior[1]
  • Library of Health[1]
  • Library of Nations
  • The LIFE History of the United States[1]
  • LIFE Library of Photography[1]
  • LIFE Nature Library, 25 volumes[1]
  • LIFE Science Library, 26 volumes[1]
  • LIFE World Library[1]
  • Mysteries of the Unknown, a best-selling Time–Life series, 33 volumes
  • The New Face of War, A 9-volume survey of the major fields of modern warfare
  • The Old West[1]
  • Planet Earth Series[1]
  • The Seafarers Series[1]
  • The Third Reich, 21 volumes
  • This Fabulous Century[1]
  • Time Frame—A survey of history by time periods instead of by civilization
  • Time–Life Library of America[1]
  • Time–Life Library of Art[1]
  • The Time–Life Library of Boating[1]
  • The Time–Life Library of Gardening[1]
  • Time Life Library of Curious and Unusual Facts
  • Time Reading Program[1]
  • Understanding Computers
  • Voyage Through the Universe—series on Astronomy
  • Wild, Wild World of Animals (based on the TV series)
  • The World's Wild Places[1]
  • Wings of War, 26 Volumes
  • World War II, 39 volumes [2]

Time Life no longer publishes books as its book division was closed in 2003. Time Inc./Time Warner, however, continues to publish similar material through Time Inc. Home Entertainment.


Time-Life added music in 1962, selling box sets and collections through Time-Life Records. During the 1960s and 1970s, the collections released by Time-Life Records catered to a conversative adult audience, with genres including classical, jazz, swing and orchestral music; and the music of operas and Broadway theatre. On occasion, Time-Life offered popular music (generally pre-1955 music, as opposed to pop and rock music airing on contemporary hit radio stations in the United States at the time) in box sets. Although there were television advertisements, Time-Life advertised most of these sets in magazines, specialty catalogs and direct mail.

In the early 1980s, Time-Life began branching out, offering a series of albums focusing on country music. The first series was 1981's "Country Music," with volumes focusing on a particular artist and featuring eight or nine tracks per album. Twenty volumes were issued, with many of country's greatest artists of the time (Charley Pride was the first artist featured) getting their own album. But until the mid-1980s, Time-Life did not feature a rock music-intensive series for customers, preferring to cater to older adults with conservative music tastes.

Pop music enters the picture

Time-Life's first successful foray into rock music came in 1986, with a series called "Rock'n'Roll Era." Each volume in that series -- like similar series that followed -- focused on a particular year (in this case, 1955 through 1964 -- the early, pre-Beatles years of rock music), a stylistic trend or particular artist influential in rock music. Each volume had 22 tracks, and was said to contain the original hit recording by the original artist (although this wasn't always true on early pressings of the early albums in the series). The songs themselves represented the most important and popular songs from the period or subject featured.

The "Rock'n'Roll Era" series was a big success, and by the time the final volume was issued in the early 1990s, more than 40 different volumes (including two Christmas albums) had been released. This paved the way for more country and pop music-intensive series, including "Country USA," "Classic Rock," "Sounds of the Seventies," "Your Hit Parade" (a series featuring popular music of the 1940s through early 1960s) and "Super Hits." Like the earlier series, each volume issued had its own paperback booklet containing liner notes and information about the songs, with the addition of placement on various Billboard magazine charts.

Like the earlier box sets featuring other musical styles and genres, the country and pop music series were advertised in magazines, catalogs and direct mail. By this time, some of these collections were advertised on television: either commercials or 30-minute infomercials. The television advertisements used slogans (e.g., "Relive your high school days ..."), clips of songs included in each volume (along with a scrolling list of other titles), a commercial spokesman (usually a performer or legendary disc jockey relevant to a given series, such as Rick Dees for a 1970s-intensive collection and Ralph Emery for a country music series) and testimonials from customers attesting to the quality and value of the albums, to pitch a given series series. Key selling points of these collections are that each track was digitally transferred to the desired format using the original master recordings, as opposed to being "re-records" (usually, new or latter-day stereo recordings of songs when licensing or the original master of a desired song was unavailable); and that the most popular and requested songs by customers could be found in a single collection (as opposed to a customer having to purchase many albums to obtain just a few desired tracks).

Customers were given a choice of which format they wanted their box set: either vinyl albums, 8-track or cassette tape, or compact disc; today's box sets are offered only as compact discs.

While most of Time-Life's box sets and releases were critically hailed, there were also some minor faults pointed out by critics. For instance, several early pressings of the early volumes in the "Rock'n'Roll Era" series contained stereo re-recordings of the original hits (something that would be corrected on later pressings, either with the correct original recording or a replacement track). Sometimes, the most popular songs of a given time period were omitted; frequently, this was due to licensing issues (such as was the case with The Beatles and The Rolling Stones).

Through at least the early 2000s, the different series Time-Life had offered were available on a subscription basis, either by calling a 1-800 number or sending a completed postcard-sized card and payment to Time-Life. Purportedly, the customer would get a specific volume (as advertised on TV or in a magazine) first, before receiving a new volume roughly every other month (on the format of their choice); customers and had the option of keeping just the volumes they wanted. In time, each volume was also offered for individual sale.

List of series

The following list shows many of the collections the company has released, but is by no means exhaustive.

  • 60's Gold (discontinued)
  • 70's, The (©1994, Time-Life/Warner; Europe)
  • 70's, The - Back In The Groove (©1994, Time-Life/Warner; Europe)
  • 70's Music Explosion
  • 80's Music Explosion
  • AM Gold (discontinued; was first issued as "Super Hits")
  • Billboard #1 Hits of the 70's
  • Body and Soul
  • Classic Bluegrass (discontinued)
  • Classic Country
  • Classic Love Songs of the 60's
  • Classic Rock (discontinued)
  • Classic Rhythm and Blues
  • Classic Soft Rock
  • Classic Soul Ballads
  • Classic Love Songs of Rock N' Roll (discontinued)
  • Contemporary Country
  • Country Music Explosion
  • Country USA (discontinued)
  • Country's Got Heart
  • Disco Fever
  • Easy 80's
  • Fabulous Fifties, The
  • Flower Power
  • Folk Years (discontinued)
  • Giants of Jazz (discontinued)
  • Great American Songbook
  • Golden Age of Country
  • Golden Age of Pop
  • Hard & Heavy
  • It All Started with Doo Wop
  • Lifetime of Country Romance
  • Lifetime of Romance (discontinued)
  • Legends: The Ultimate Rock (discontinued)
  • Living the Blues
  • Magic of Love
  • Malt Shop Memories
  • Midnight Soul
  • The Motown Collection
  • Opry Video Classics
  • Oldies But Goodies
  • Pop Memories of the 60's
  • Prom Night
  • Rock N' Roll Era (discontinued)
  • Pure Rhythm and Blues
  • Rock N' Roll: Legendary Years (discontinued)
  • Romancing the 70's
  • Classic Soul Ballads
  • Singers & Songwriters
  • Songs 4 Ever (discontinued)
  • Soul Story
  • Sounds of the Seventies (discontinued)
  • Sounds of the Eighties (discontinued)
  • Sounds of the Nineties (discontinued)
  • Superstars of Country
  • Superstars of the 80's
  • Sweet Soul of the 70's
  • The Teen Years
  • The Rock Collection (discontinued)
  • To The Moon, a 6-record set: a documentary with accompanying book about the early space program, the space race, the missions to the moon and the first moon landing, published soon after Apollo 11 completed its mission to the moon. (discontinued)
  • Ultimate Seventies (discontinued)
  • Ultimate Love Songs
  • Ultimate Rock Ballads
  • Uptown Saturday Night
  • Your Hit Parade (discontinued)


In recent years, the company has been subject to bad press due to questionable billing practices.[citation needed] Some customers claim that they have been tricked into purchasing multiple CDs from Time Life. Buyers, wishing to purchase single CDs, do not fully understand that they are entering into "Continuity Programs," despite the promotional advertisements stating they will be introduced into a series of CDs shipped "every few weeks," automatically billing the credit card. Critics contend that the company's disclosure about automatic follow-up orders is intentionally and deceptively placed in areas where it is unlikely to be read. Time Life does, however, back every product with a 30 day money-back guarantee and the customer's account will be refunded upon receipt of the returned item. As a benefit, customers can call customer service to cancel at any time, whereas services such as BMG Music Service and Columbia House (which have since merged) require the customer to buy a certain number of CDs before they can cancel.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad From a list of "Other Publications" on the copyright page of "The Commandos", the final volume of the Time-Life Books Series, "World War II"
  2. ^ http://www.amazon.com/World-War-II-39-Set/dp/B000MC7H4I

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