Book Clubs: Good, Bad or A Little of Both?

Are mass book groups the problem rather than the solution? Are Richard and Judy (England’s answer to Oprah’s Book Club) to blame?

According to the London Herald , “Some critics believe book clubs such as Richard and Judy’s are responsible for a homogenisation of our reading culture.”

The Herald reported that publishers “can no longer afford to take chances and authors who have enjoyed modest successes over many years are suddenly being dropped in favour of potential big hitters.”

Cathy Kinnear, manager of an independent bookstore in Glasgow, said, “The book clubs are not about giving people choice. They are actually narrowing it. We can offer recommendations that are targeted at our customers, bearing in mind local preferences rather than picking out a few books for the whole nation.”

How does the “one city one book” phenomenon play into this issue? How about the NEA’s Big Read? Are programs such as these limiting choices and preventing ‘smaller titles’ from being found?