Oprah’s back with a digital book club


Oprah’s Book Club, which turned featured books into major bestsellers, is back after two years — with some improvements for the digital age: “This time it’s an interactive online book club for our digital world,” Oprah Winfrey said Friday.

Oprah’s first new selection is Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild,” published by Random House’s Knopf. Starting Monday at noon, “Oprah’s Book Club 2.0” digital editions of “Wild” will be available, “with exclusive content including a reader’s guide and Oprah’s notes on her favorite passage,” will be available for Kindle (s amzn), Nook (s bks), the iBookstore (s aapl) and in other digital bookstores.

The press release outlines the special ways that Oprah will promote “Strayed” — and, presumably, the books chosen after it — in the digital age:

  • A series of webisodes featuring Oprah and Strayed will post weekly, progressing with readers as they read during the months of June and July.
  • Readers will have the opportunity to answer weekly questions on Oprah.com with text or photo using Facebook (s fb) and Twitter (using #oprahsbookclub). Readers will also submit questions about Wild. Oprah and Strayed will answer via video responses each week, and real-time updates will be featured on Oprah.com.
  • Using Storify, Oprah.com will highlight reader tweets, Instagram photos and Facebook posts that will be curated into a social wrap up that will live on Oprah.com, providing readers with a snapshot of what participants are thinking, feeling and sharing as they read Wild together.
  • Starting June 28, a map display on Oprah.com will allow readers to locate other Book Club participants around the world.
  • Using the mobile messaging application GroupMe, Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 will have a section where readers can create smaller book clubs with their friends to have discussion groups about the book club selections.

Oprah chose 70 titles for her original book club before ending it in 2010. Her selections included classics like “Anna Karenina” as well as debut novelists like Uwek Apken’s “Say You’re One of Them” and David Wroblewski’s “The Story of Edgar Sawtelle.” When an author was chosen for Oprah’s Book Club, it was a near-guarantee that his or her book would rise to the top of the New York Times bestseller list and sell hundreds of thousands of copies.

In addition to all the webisoding and Instagraming this time around, there is another difference: Oprah no longer has a talk show on network television. She will promote the Book Club 2.0 titles on her cable network, OWN; on Oprah.com; and in “O” Magazine (which — coincidentally? — just lost its books editor, Sara Nelson, to Amazon). It is unclear whether the book club will be as successful without Oprah promoting the books on network TV, but the obvious hope is that the Internet will make up for it. The fact is that since the original book club ended, nothing nearly as influential has emerged to replace it. So book publishers are happy today. (I wonder how long it is before Oprah chooses a self-published book as one of her selections.)

Oh, and add this to the list of things that people will be talking about at BEA next week.

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