This is a crazy thing that I just read about. Oprah’s Book Club was immensely popular during it’s 15 year run and was the beginning of celebrity book clubs. Economists have played with the publishing data related to Oprah’s picks and unearthed some interesting information. When an Oprah pick was announced there was an overall dip in book sales. As economist Craig L. Garthwaite explained, people were picking up Oprah’s books which were often more difficult reads than what people were used to and therefore took longer for them to get through. They spent more time deep reading one book instead of plowing through a couple. ‘In the 12 weeks following an endorsement, weekly adult fiction book sales decreased by a statistically significant 2.5 percent’, according to Garthwaite’s research. So the book club’s picks were fantastic for the 70 authors that were chosen over the course of the program and maybe less great for the wider publishing economy. However Oprah drew non-readers in non-readers, had them reading more difficult titles like A Lesson Before Dying, The Poisonwood Bible and The Corrections (which came with it’s own set of controversy). She also cleared a pathway for other celebrity book clubs which was probably a net positive.
I suppose we ought to get behind just about anything that gets people talking about reading. I brought a copy of the Fantasy Football Consistency Guide to a fantasy draft this weekend that ended with 10 men talking about the merits of The DaVinci Code and book banning, so you never know.