Did Oprah’s book club help or hurt literature?
“The bad news is that the profits that help support publication of less lucrative, more high-minded books depend on the sale of a lot of crap. And at least when it came to fiction, Garthwaite found that the net result of Oprah’s endorsements was to reduce aggregate sales. The reason was the one Franzen articulated back in 2001: Winfrey often selected books that posed a challenge for her TV audience. In practical terms, that meant that Oprah Book Club books took longer to read than the crap her viewers would otherwise read. That, in turn, meant that publishers ended up not only selling less crap, but also, in the aggregate, selling fewer books overall. Which probably meant (and I’m extrapolating here from Garthwaite’s findings) that these same publishers were correspondingly less able to publish literary fiction.”
- Timothy Noah, “Was Oprah Bad For Literature?”
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