How Not To Start A Book Club

October 3rd, 2006 · 3 Comments
by Booksquare

Possibly one of the most fascinating things going on this week (yes, back from vacation and ready to go) is the story of Borders and its online book club. After sitting on the sidelines for about ten years, the retail giant has decided it’s about time to go with a little book club love. Alas, it’s a decision to enter into a time warp as well.

We applaud the decision to go with original content — good move on the part of Borders. The rest? Hmm, not so much. First, let us say that there’s a bizarre, almost obsessive, interest in snacks at the Borders website. Now, snacks are important, but there’s a reason some people call it “wine club”. Seriously, three primary navigation nodes…and one is recipes? Already, one senses this is less about discussing great writing than selling more books.

Moving on, we, as noted, like the focus on original content. In the first month, you get a video of people chatting and snacking with Mitch Albom. Okay, if we had to chat with Albom, we’d probably be snacking, too, but, well, see above re: wine. It’s a book club, people, pull out the good reds!

Or the good reads, your call.

Here is the major issue with the Borders book club: it’s one way. You get to watch a video of people talking about a book. Or you get to read a book in the privacy of your home (or out in public, no rules about that) and then you get to watch the video. Or just selected “chapters” of the video (get it, clever, no?). You, the average reader, have no way, no mechanism of communicating with Borders or your fellow readers. It’s not a book club, it’s a television show.

There’s also no mention of next month’s book. Now, our book club is gearing up to read Thomas Pynchon’s V. We all know that it will take a while to get through all the pages, so club rules dictate at least a month’s notice. Courtesy, you know. A mere mention of the next title would have made this more useful to people.

Presumably, Borders is trying to drive traffic to its website. The problem with this book club is that it gives people no reason to come back on day-to-day basis. And if you don’t have a way of pushing information to potential readers (there’s a newfangled thing called “RSS” that would come in handy here), they’re eventually going to to forget about the book club. Of course, we could be wrong. Maybe Borders is planning on blanketing the planet with press releases every month.

[tags]borders, book club, mitch albom[/tags]

File Under: Books/Mags/Blogs

3 responses so far ↓

  • David Thayer // Oct 3, 2006 at 10:23 am

    Mitch Albom. Snacking with Mitch? Tuesdays with Mitch? Watching the Tigers get annihilated with Mitch?

  • Booksquare // Oct 3, 2006 at 11:36 pm

    You know, I’d be totally amused by this, but I live with an A’s fan. Life is rough at BS Central.

  • Rich // Nov 16, 2006 at 9:33 pm

    The book club is entertainment and entertaining. And about the food — my bookclub does a heck of a lot of eating (and drinking!). Borders is moving into original broadband entertainment like so many other companies – and why not? There are no hurdles to getting into the TV-style game as is the case in cable and broadcast television, and they already have a brand loyal audience. It seems like a smart extension to me. Not getting the time warp part. This is how Home and Garden TV started, how Food Network started, How ESPN and C-SPAN and CNN started. Now those networks are icons with large dedicated followings. Quality programming will attract an audience and makes infinitely more sense than a 30-second advertisement on someone else’s program in a Tivo-driven world.

    As for Mitch vs. Pynchon, well, you have a point there. Maybe a need for another book club for those with a more literary palette.

    I do agree it would be nice to have a place to discuss what we’ve watched after the fact. A community posting or online author Q&A would be cool. Something in-store to promote would be nice as well. And I think the wine component would be a very nice addition! I might send that one to Borders myself.