BREAKING NEWS & VIEWS
Oprah Made Book: Publishing Loses a Key Driver
Monday, May 23, 2011
According to Nielsen, special Oprah editions of her Book Club selections have sold over 22 million copies in the last ten years. Topping the list is Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth (3.37 million copies) and James Frey’s controversial and partially faked A Million Little Pieces (2.7 million). Oprah’s championing of literary figures helped sell another 2 million copies of Elie Wiesel’s Night and even 1.3 million more of Steinbeck’s East of Eden.
The Oprah effect could be especially pronounced for unknown authors. The Oprah edition of Uwen Akpan’s Say You’re One of Them sold 405,000 copies compared to only 47,000 in other editions. The Oprah edition of Wroblewski’s The Story of Edgar Sawtelle sold three times as well as the original hardcover.
What cannot be counted, of course, is how much Oprah’s support of reading and the book trade helped revive or sustain popular interest in long-form reading experiences during an age when attention spans are short and the business models for book stores appear to be failing. The book and bookseller industries are losing a key sales driver at just the point when she is needed most.
The publishing industry meets in New York this week for BookExpo America to discuss its future. Barnes & Noble is expected to unveil a new reading device on Tuesday, and Apple will be promoting its iPad's strength as an e-book reading platform.
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