On September 17, 1996, Oprah announced the start of Oprah's Book Club, a reading club featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show. She chose works of fiction regularly and invited the author and selected viewers to join her for an intimate follow-up discussion. In April 2002, Oprah put the Book Club on hold until June 2003, when she re-launched it with John Steinbeck's East of Eden, which became the 47th selection to skyrocket to the top of bestseller lists.
With hopes of creating the biggest Book Club in the world along with the re-launch in June 2003, viewers were given the opportunity to join Oprah's Book Club online at Oprah.com. To date, there are approximately 2 million members who are offered in-depth study guides, and expert Q and A. Book Club members can also connect with other readers from their local area or create book clubs online with people from around the world.
Oprah's Book Club also partners with the American Library Association (ALA) to distribute thousands of free Book Club selections, donated by the publisher, to school, public and community college libraries nationwide. The ALA is the oldest and largest library association in the world with 64,000 members.
Oprah's Book Club has been one of the most closely watched and heralded events on television by the general public, as well as the media and publishing industries. Recognizing her dedication to promoting the joys and benefits of reading, industry leaders have credited Oprah with rejuvenating the publishing industry. Newsweek named her the most important person in the world of books and media in 1997 and The National Book Foundation awarded Oprah its 50th Anniversary Gold Medal in 1999. In 2003, the Association of American Publishers presented her with its highest award, the "AAP Honors."