Monday, October 31, 2011

World Book Night

World Book Night is happening again next year. Remember last year, when there was all that telly stuff and Traflagar Square and Margaret Atwood did a TV whatsit. It was nice. Well this time it's on April 23rd, a sensible distance away from World Book Day, which is on March 1st. (last year it was a little bit closer, and caused a bit of a kerfuffle). The 25 titles for World Book Night were announced earlier this week. Alison Flood did a piece about it here. I mention this article specifically, because I am quoted in it. Ha ha ha.

The article, among other things, questions whether giving away free books will hurt Independent Bookshops. On a personal level, it makes not the slightest difference to us whatsoever that these books are being given away for free. In reality, we are likely to sell between 2-5 each of these titles a year. In fact 10 of them we don't regularly keep (although all shops stock profiles are different), so in terms of black and white facts, it really isn't that big a deal.

'but if people are reading these books, that means they might not buy a book from you instead'.

Well that is possible, but it is also possible that if the organinsers of World Book Night get it right, it will raise the profile of books and how ace reading is, and then get more people into bookshops, libraries etc.
My concern is that last year, the organisers did NOT get it quite right.

The idea of World Book Night is a good one. Give lots of free books away to people who don't usually have access to books or to people who don't read. Good, I like it.

But how do you get the right books to the right people?

That's incredibly hard. But asking for volunteers take packs of 48 books and expecting them to do it is not, in my humbly bumbly opinion, the right way. These volunteers are wonderful people who want to get involved, but a lot of them are (I suspect) pretty well read. My concern is that the books will often be distributed to these well read group of people's well read group of friends. I know this is not true in lots of cases, but it was certainly true of a number of volunteers who picked up their books from our shop. I am not in any way blaming the volunteers, because all of them clearly wanted to spread the word about reading and gave up their own time to do this. All i'm saying is that I think the point is to give books to people who don't usually have access to books or to people who don't read and there is probably a better way of doing this.


World Book Day is good. Very good. The idea of World Book Day is to encourage children to explore the pleasures of books and reading by providing them with the opportunity to have a book of their own
There's more;
Thanks to the generosity of.....participating booksellers, school children are entitled to receive a World Book Day £1 Book Token. The Book Token can be exchanged for one of the six specially published World Book Day £1 Books or is redeemable against any book or audiobook of their choice at a participating bookshop or book club.

Ooh, now here's an idea. Instead of giving away one from a selection of 24 titles to random people, why don't we give certain people (people who don't usually have access to books or to people who don't read) a voucher up to the value of say £7.99 to buy a book of their choice from a selection of thousands and thousands of titles at any bookshop in the country.
Here are the plus points.
  • People get to choose a book they might actually read.
  • It will get people into bookshops.
  • It's more likely that the people who should benefit from World Book Night, do benefit from it.
  • More people will read books.
  • It is ace
  • There will be no need to print 1,000,000 extra books with special covers n' stuff because the books that people want will already be on the shelves. Hurrah.
There are negative points too, like not everybody will use the vouchers (did everyone read the free book they got given last year), and i'm sure that it will be impossible to target 100% accurately the poeple most in need of these vouchers. But I suspect that if a little research was done to work out those people most worthy of the vouchers (area's with lowest literacy, highest unemployment etc), then it would be totally brilliant.
The cost of the scheme could be shared by everyone (government, publishers, bookshops, BA and the like), and WBN is a charity too so that's good.
Well anyway, that's my idea.

Here's a picture of  a kitten with some cute ducklings


Anonymous said...

Here's a thought. Why not give some of these books/vouchers to people leaving prison.

Lots of people really only learn to read for the first time when they are in prison. They use the prison library service and really get to understand the value of having a different reality in their heads.
Then they leave prison and are too embarrassed to visit their local libraries and may never read again.

If they had a book or voucher they might continue to love reading and spread that love to their families and even friends.

It might even help them to get back into society and save us all a lot of money!

Simon Key said...

That's a great idea. I know that a lot of the books from WBN last year went into prisons, but addressing the issue of people leaving prison is perfect for this kind of scheme.

Lucy Coats said...

Excellent, Simon, and gives much food for thought. Thank you.