What happened
A group of liberal-minded authors and activists launched the Progressive Book Club on Monday in an attempt to steer readers toward selected books. “The right has always understood the power of ideas, the power of books as legitimizers of ideas,” PBC founder Elizabeth Wagley told The New York Times. “I see the opportunity with the book-club structure to create a powerful tool to showcase the ideas of the left.” (The New York Times)

What the commentators said
This is an important “venture,” said PBC editorial board member Katrina Vanden Heuvel in The Nation. “At this defining moment in history,” we need to “examine complex issues from new perspectives, ask tough questions, and press for real change.” Organizations like the PBC can help “rebuild and strengthen our democracy,” as well as “enrich the marketplace of ideas and challenge a media universe” that “too often trivializes and sensationalizes politics.”

But the PBC “is entering the market at a time when the publishing industry is struggling and the book club segment in particular has come under significant pressure,” said Motoko Rich in The New York Times. Not to mention the fact that “readers sympathetic to progressive causes can already learn about books on blogs or by reading reviews in newspapers or on any number of book-related Web sites.”

There is “definitely” enough traffic out there for the PBC “site to latch onto,” said the blog Bookyards, especially since it’s catering to such a “specific audience.” But it needs to “stay away from the typical Bush bashing books, and stick with a direction where discussion and debate is permitted and tolerated.” Otherwise, “it will always be perceived and marginalized as a fringe book club with a narrow agenda.”