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Old 03-01-2013, 05:30 PM   #1
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The Ugly Truth - Oprah and Book Clubs

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Originally Posted by Fat Abe
This thread, although quite old, saves me the trouble of having to create one titled, The Ugly Truth - Oprah and Book Clubs. Why has the average reader or viewer become so dependent on book clubs for recommendations? This is not a concept that originated with Oprah. Historically, we have had clubs sponsored by Reader's Digest, Literary Guild, Book of the Month club, the Science Fiction Book Club, etc. Oprah took it to a national TV level, followed by an online version. Like Hugh Hefner, Oprah gets to pick her favorite authors, and that means that anything by Toni Morrison or Bill Cosby is at the top of the list. While there has been controversy about her selections, overall her books are readable, and semi-respectable.

http://www.altweeklies.com/aan/oprah...ory?oid=828937

But, too much power in the hands of one person is not good for those outside her chosen circle. I won't be joining her book club in the near future, but I am tempted by the SFBC 5 books for $1 introductory offer. Please save me. Tell me that the MRBC (Mobileread Book Club) is about to be created! Books chosen by real readers for fellow readers.
I call Oprah's followers lemmings because whatever Oprah recommends, they have to read. And now her Oprah 2.0 versions are just nasty. They mark up the book in such a way that the markings get in the way of just reading the book. I think this is just a way to get the lemmings to buy the book again if they already have it just to be able to read Oprah's comments.

I do belong to the SFBC but I have not bought anything from them in ages. I find the prices too high.

Last edited by JSWolf; 03-01-2013 at 05:34 PM.
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Old 03-02-2013, 01:46 AM   #2
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Before other options for buying books became available, book clubs may have made sense. There were draconian rules involved, like mailing back postcards if you did not want a book for the month. If you were lax like me, you would automatically be mailed books. Then, at some point, the book clubs switched to an active acknowledgment system. A member would have to order a book to receive it. What is the raison d'etre for such clubs today? I suppose if a reader is too busy to read the New York Times Book Review or New York Review of Books, then a book club would make sense. No use missing a good book due to life getting in the way. (Of course, the book club would have to be selective in its offerings). Ebook clubs are probably different from the P-book clubs. Given a choice, I prefer hard cover books over soft covers and ebooks. Unless an ebook is free or cheap, I don't feel it has intrinsic value. Understandably, it is a major convenience for the traveler, and offers advantages for those with sight problems. The instant gratification of downloading such a book might be a strong factor for others. Searching a book electronically is a major advantage for the researcher.

I just ordered $600 in hardcover books from Amazon. Free, but slow shipping. No regrets. I plan to keep the books for a long time, and pass them on to my children.

When I have time, I will look into book clubs again. Times have changed, and there are probably plenty of choices in format and price. But, I won't be using Oprah.
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Old 03-02-2013, 02:32 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JSWolf View Post
I call Oprah's followers lemmings because whatever Oprah recommends, they have to read. And now her Oprah 2.0 versions are just nasty. They mark up the book in such a way that the markings get in the way of just reading the book. I think this is just a way to get the lemmings to buy the book again if they already have it just to be able to read Oprah's comments.

I do belong to the SFBC but I have not bought anything from them in ages. I find the prices too high.
Some of us got into trouble for using the term "lemmings" in a very similar manner.

In fact the parallels above are striking. Almost "magically" so.
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Old 03-02-2013, 02:36 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fat Abe View Post
--
I just ordered $600 in hardcover books from Amazon. Free, but slow shipping. No regrets. I plan to keep the books for a long time, and pass them on to my children. -
I fear that your children will not want those books when that time comes, but I hope so if that is what you want.
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Old 03-02-2013, 03:51 AM   #5
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I fear that your children will not want those books when that time comes, but I hope so if that is what you want.
I'm like Fat Abe when it comes to books. I only buy in ebook form books that I want to read then delete. I prefer to buy hardcover versions of nonfiction and certain (very limited) fiction. I alos plan to pass my library of hardcovers on to my children some day.

My son has already told me that there are a few hardcovers he would keep but the rest he would donate or sell. My daughter would like the entire library as she is like me and she would keep the books and pass them on some day. My other daughter is not much of a reader and could care less whether she gets them or not.

All of the children, however, are interested in my collectible first editions and autographed hardcovers. Those they would all save for their value -- at least for a while.

Even knowing that my library may not be appreciated by my children (there is always hope that my grandchildren will be more like me), I still continue to grow my library because it gives me personal satisfaction. Some people collect art, some baseball cards, some antiques -- I collect books and would feel a loss without them.
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Old 03-02-2013, 03:57 AM   #6
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People follow Oprah and book club recommendations because there are simply too many choices available and they have found that their taste and the recommender's taste coincide. I see it as no different than reading a New York Times review and then buying or not buying a book. Just the recommender is different, but no less competent.

In the beginning, the book clubs gave readers an opportunity to read new books at a lower price in the "club" edition, which was generally a less-well produced book than the publisher's version. Prices were lower and there was some weeding out of the junk.

As for followers of Oprha being lemmings, I don't see how that is any more true than those who read Joe Blow's Book Review blog/website faithfully and buy books he recommends, or buy books that Amazon recommends or says others have bought who have bought the book you are buying, are any different. Oprah's taste may not coincide with yours and Amazon's might, but that doesn't validate one and invalidate the other.
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Old 03-02-2013, 05:53 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JSWolf View Post
I call Oprah's followers lemmings because whatever Oprah recommends, they have to read. And now her Oprah 2.0 versions are just nasty. They mark up the book in such a way that the markings get in the way of just reading the book. I think this is just a way to get the lemmings to buy the book again if they already have it just to be able to read Oprah's comments.
I don't follow Oprah, but anyone who supports reading to the extent she does is to be highly commended.

You're obviously not her target audience, so why do you even care what she recommends? And just because you personally don't like the added comments is no reason to to insult her followers. They're quite capable of making the same decision you do whether to buy or not.
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Old 03-02-2013, 06:29 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fat Abe View Post
Before other options for buying books became available, book clubs may have made sense.
I think you're confusing book clubs with book-of-the-month clubs. The former is simply a gathering of like-minded individuals who agree to read the same book at roughly the same time and discuss it. Oprah's book club is merely her recommendation, usually followed up with an appearance on her show by the author.

I think anything that gets people reading is a good thing. While I'm no fan, I support her efforts to get the public reading.
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Old 03-02-2013, 06:39 AM   #9
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I think anything that gets people reading is a good thing. While I'm no fan, I support her efforts to get the public reading.
Agreed. The fact that this gets people reading is what's important here.
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Old 03-02-2013, 07:06 AM   #10
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I don't care what other people do

or how they do it.
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Old 03-02-2013, 11:59 AM   #11
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It's her version 2.0 editions that I disagree with.
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Old 03-02-2013, 12:36 PM   #12
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My problem with Oprah's book club is not that she has one, or that so many people flock to it, as it is with her choices. At least in the 1.0 version, an awful lot of her books were so depressing!
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Old 03-02-2013, 12:47 PM   #13
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In Oprah's defense her ''book club'' popularization of The Road is pretty much the only reason I know about, and read, the book. Cormac McCarthy isn't someone who would normally be on the list of authors I read. That book led to me ''discovering'' No Country for Old Men and both are some of my favorite books/movies of all time.

Plus it's kinda cool in a way that Oprah promoted a post-apocalyptic horror novel on her show.
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Old 03-02-2013, 02:19 PM   #14
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The fact that McCarthy has had four of his books turned into movies would have put him on most readers' radar sooner or later. Oprah probably did not even know about Cormac in 2000 when the movie adaptation of his 1992 novel, All the Pretty Horses, was made. The Coen brothers turned No Country for Old Men into an Oscar winning film in 2007. According to Wikipedia, the novel originated from an unsold screenplay. Good writing always surfaces from anonymity, with or without recommendations from people like Oprah. Her choice of The Road was not even his best book. She was getting on the bandwagon at the time. We should thank Billy Bob Thornton as the first big name "discoverer." Others knew about McCarthy even earlier:

[But] among a small fraternity of writers and academics, McCarthy has a standing second to none, far out of proportion to his name recognition or sales. A cult figure with a reputation as a writer's writer, especially in the South and in England, McCarthy has sometimes been compared with Joyce and Faulkner. Saul Bellow, who sat on the committee that in 1981 awarded him a MacArthur Fellowship, the so-called genius grant, exclaims over his "absolutely overpowering use of language, his life-giving and death-dealing sentences." Says the historian and novelist Shelby Foote: "McCarthy is the one writer younger than myself who has excited me. I told the MacArthur people that he would be honoring them as much as they were honoring him."

http://www.nytimes.com/books/98/05/1...thy-venom.html
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Old 03-02-2013, 04:02 PM   #15
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That would be relevant if book clubs had anything to do with getting some sort of credit for being the "first" or being an "early adopter" of acclaimed authors. It's a book club, not a validation contest.

"I mean, really... Cormac McCarthy?!?"
"I know, right? He's sooo last years' book club—heck I was in a book club (that Billy Bob Thorton was in, BTW) that was recommending McCarthy years and years ago."
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