NEW YORK - When she learned that Oprah Winfrey had a new book pick coming, Cathy Langer of the Tattered Cover store in Denver ordered hundreds of copies, as she always does, even though the actual choice is not officially revealed until Winfrey announces it on her show.
But so far, Langer has seen few takers for the bound paperback volume of Charles Dickens' "A Tale of Two Cities" and "Great Expectations." "I think it's not all that exciting of a pick, frankly," said Langer, head buyer for the Tattered Cover, a leading independent store.
Dickens remains among the most popular of "classic" authors and Winfrey has been the publishing industry's most dependable maker of hits. But her selection, which went on sale Dec. 6, has had an unusually slow start.
The paperback, released by Penguin with an announced printing of 750,000 copies, has not cracked the top 10 on Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.com. According to Nielsen BookScan, which tracks around 75 percent of sales, the paperback sold just 21,000 copies its first week and ranked No. 43 among best-sellers for that time.
One factor: Readers can download the books for free. The copyright on Dickens' books long expired, so they can be sold by anyone, at any price, in any format.