Friday, December 4, 2009

The Oprah Affect

Oprah Winfrey recently announced that she'll be ending her wildly successful television show in 2011 after 25 years on the air. This led to shock across the Internet and the question of who will replace the daytime queen?

Book publishers also weighed in on the loss, especially as it relates to selling books. “Listen, anytime we lose an outlet as significant as Oprah’s, it’s not a plus,” said Random House spokesperson Stuart Applebaum. “She had the potential to move that sales needle like nobody else on the air. Or frankly in any other medium we care about.” Over at MediaBistro, GalleyCat had a different opinion, one worth reading in order to understand both sides of this divide.

This is as good a time as any to revisit a couple of books that explore the argument over the cultural impact of Oprah's Book Club. Cecilia Konchar Farr's Reading Oprah and The Oprah Affect (coedited by Farr and Jaime Harker) look at how the Book Club changed America's reading habits. Here's what Bitch had to say about Reading Oprah:

“…Farr doesn’t just present an airtight defense of Oprah’s Book Club as a positive cultural force; she also takes on the Western canon and the critics who create and sustain it … As … Farr sees it, Oprah’s greatest sin, in the eyes of these critics, is her commitment to getting books into the hands of the masses … and encouraging them not only to talk about books as if they matter, but as if their own lives matter, too … [Farr] … presents her views in an eminently rational, plainspoken, and impeccably informed voice ... it’s difficult not to give Oprah some long-overdue props for her impressive achievement.”