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While reading is still considered a relatively private and intellectual endeavor, national book clubs seem to drive up sales by ensuring books’ social currency. Reading no longer needs to be the artsy equivalent of solitary confinement; instead, it can be a ticket to a group event, as well as an affordable emulation of a beloved celebrity’s habits. Consequently, if you think literary culture is suffering for lack of readers, you probably see some good in TV shows’ book clubs; and if you think literary culture is suffering because people no longer like to think — at least, for themselves, that is — book clubs may seem like its death knell (and here comes the grim Ripa).

Unsurprisingly, the success of TV books clubs in the U.S. has vaulted the trend across the pond: earlier this year, Richard & Judy, Britain’s most popular morning talk show hosts (think a younger Regis, and a mumsy Ripa), introduced the R & J book club and bumped sales of its selected books up by, in one case, 871%.

Originally inspired by “the Oprah effect,” the R & J book club is now moving in Oprah’s opposite direction. According to Book2Book, a UK book site, the British duo has launched a first novel competition, with the winner set to recieve a publishing deal from Pan Macmillan and a £50,000 advance.

In other words: the book clubs of the future might not just read books, but write and market them.

(Here’s daring anyone to submit to J & R‘s competition a slightly altered and double-spaced copy of Twenty-Seventh City…)

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