I'm pretty sure we didn't have them when I was at school, or that might have just been my school, I don't know.
But when my kids were at primary school they were an annual event. They brought the catalogue home and spent ages deciding what book to get.
The Parent's Club also used to give each child a book at Christmas (from Santa) and those books were bought from the book fair as well. If I remember correctly the school got a percentage of the sales money so it was also a good fundraiser.