May 4th, 2009

Author Mariyn French is dead

I was born a feminist. Equal rights made sense to me. In 7th grade, we were given a pamphlet on voting put out by the 3M company. It ssid that women often chose candidates on the basis of looks (the booklet assumed all candidates were men), or thriftiness, since women had to oversee the household budget. It was the next passage that made me complain to the teacher (to no avail): "But some observers throw up their hands and say they don't understand why women vote the way they do at all!"

A few years later, I was sent to the principal's office for complaining when the social studies teacher showed us a film about how boys were horny slobs and girls were overly sensitive creatures who had to be careful to draw a line about parking. I was still in high school when I bought a copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves.

And around the time of my senior year, my mom and I both read The Women's Room by Marilyn French. Thirty-two years later, the impression that book left on me still lingers.

I guess she died a few days ago. You can read the NY Times obit here.

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Can book club sales survive?

Book clubs used to have a good niche. Way back in the olden days, before the Internet and before Amazon, a book club might the best way for someone to figure out what to read. My agent remembers when book sale rights could bring in $100,000. I've had books in the Mystery Book Club, the Detective Book Club, and Face of Betrayal is currently available through several book clubs, including Book of the Month.

But times are changing. From 2002 to 2008, book sales overall grew 1.6%. For book clubs and mail order, the growth rate was -5.7%. In other words, sales shrank.

But Progressive Book Club, or PBC, is trying to buck the trend. Ad Age reports that PBC is not a book club, but a "book community. Members can discuss their views online in community discussion forums and read exclusive content from highly regarded writers and journalists. PBC also offers a unique book-reading and charity-giving combination; books are selected for their liberal bent by a renowned editorial board (members include Michael Chabon, Dave Eggars and Erica Jong) and $2 of the proceeds from each book sale go to one of the participating nonprofits."

"PBC does all of its marketing online, including significant e-mail campaigns to select lists, search advertising and some online banner ads. It secures the e-mail distribution lists through partnerships with 45 nonprofit organizations, including Mother Jones and Air America. PBC is an e-commerce outlet only, and it does not communicate with customers by mail -- nor does it offer them a "bill me later" option, something that once was synonymous with such clubs but came with hassles around payment."

Read more about book clubs here.

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