From “Shelf Awareness,” Thursday/August 4, 2005/Volume 1/Issue 27


First Chapter for Reading Group Choices's New Leaders
After Barbara Drummond Mead and her husband, Charlie, decided reluctantly not to open a bookstore, she learned that Reading Group Choices, the publication founded by Paz & Associates 10 years ago to serve the book group market, was for sale. "My eyes lit up," she told Shelf Awareness. "It was perfect. I was in publishing and had worked in bookstores [including McIntyre's in Fearrington Village, N.C., and Covered Treasures Bookstore, Monument, Colo.]. I know books. I know bookstores. And Charlie comes from sales and marketing."

Charlie, who has an MBA and worked for 30 years for Compaq and Digital Equipment, "ran the numbers and saw it was a good, solid business," he said. And with his tech background, he saw further possibilities, such as enhancing the publication's Web site and making it more interactive. "We want to connect authors and publishers and readers," he said.

But those plans have to wait at least a few more weeks. Since buying Reading Group Choices from Donna Paz Kaufman and Mark Kaufman, who wanted to concentrate on their core business of training and consulting with booksellers, in May, the Meads have focused on getting the 2006 edition together. "We're 85% full for this edition," Barbara said.

Of the edition's 20,000 copies, complimentary copies are sent to 12,000 public libraries, 2,000 bookstores with book group programs and 1,000 book groups. The rest of the copies are sold, sometimes a copy at a time, sometimes in bulk to bookstore groups. Eventually the Meads want to add specialty editions, focusing, for example, on faith-based fiction or Southern writers.

Reading Group Choices owners Two groups of Reading Group Choices owners (from l. to r.): Mark Kaufman, Donna Paz Kaufman, Barbara Drummond Mead, Charlie Mead.

Although bookstore reading groups get plenty of attention, much reading group action takes place at libraries. Charlie said: "Lots and lots of public libraries are very active. Reading groups may not take books out of the library but they depend on the library for advice."

Both Meads extol the demographics of book groups. Some 30% of readers of Reading Group Choices have been members of book groups for more than five years and more than 60% hold advance degrees. They also buy more than 60 books a year on average and they often buy as gifts titles they learned about through reading groups. Charlie added, "They're tech savvy, but like to have a printed copy of Reading Group Choices."

Reading Group Choices is located at 532 Cross Creek Court, Chester, Md. 21619; 410-643-7472;