Tuesday, May 24, 2011

So, I Wrote To Guinness World Records

About 2 months ago, March 23rd to be exact, I was chatting to some bookloving people about Reading Groups and the like. We now have 4 and jolly good they are too. Well, it turns out that June 25th is National Reading Group Day in the UK, and it got me thinking.
I wonder if there's anything we can do to help make National Reading Group Day go with a swing at the shop.
So then I had an idea, and I logged onto the Guinness World Records website.
I set up an account and I sent an application, which went something like this.

World Record Attempt for the World's Biggest Reading Group
June 25th 2011 is National reading group Day in the UK. We would like to attempt to set/break the World Record for the Worlds Largest Reading Group.
There are many thousands of reading groups throughout the UK and they are a great way of giving people who might not necessarily read regularly an opportunity to do so.
The record attempt will be made by joining people nationwide using social media websites Twitter and Facebook, using a website forum and also skype and video links
A book has been chosen and will be sent out to all the people who register that they would like to take part. This will happen around the end of May. This will give those people around 4 weeks to read the book.
On the day of the record attempt itself, those involved will be asked to log in or register with a central administrator based in a venue in London (possibly the Big Green Bookshop in Wood Green). People can log in as a group or as an individual. The discussion about the book will start at 4.00pm GMT and there will be a centralised forum which will keep people updated about other peoples' thoughts. There will also be a facebook page and also a twitter hashtag which will be linked up to the forum. From 6.00pm until 8.00pm all the individuals taking part will be allowed to give the book marks out of ten. The scores will be kept by the central administrator and at 9.00pm the average score and the number of people who took part will be announced. I am by no means the most tech savvy of people, but I have been assured by colleagues who are that this is a very straight forward system to organise.
We have excellent links with the media and we will ensure that as well as coverage in the Local Press and in the Trade Press, there will be national coverage of this attempt.

Anyway, the application was something like that (I cannot copy the actual application I sent to the Guinness folk as it has been swallowed up like the frothy head on their delicious alcoholic brew).

I was told that I would need to wait 4-6 weeks for a reply and was given a claim number. 342992

So a couple of weeks ago I got a reply. Here it is.

** Please do not send a response to this unmonitored email address as it will not be read**

Claim ID: 342992

Membership Number: 301897

Dear Mr Simon Key,
Thank you for your enquiry regarding your intention to attempt the record for ‘Worlds Largest Reading Group'. We cannot accept your proposal as a new record category at this moment. However, we have searched our Record Database and this is the most similar record we currently monitor: ’Most people completing a questionnaire’.

The current record (current as at the date of this letter) is:

The most people completing a questionnaire is 3,461 and was achieved by Sanofi Aventis de México S.A. de C.V. and La Asociación Psiquiátrica Mexicana (both Mexico) at the Aguascalientes International Speedway in Aguascalientes, Mexico, on 21 March 2010.
(then lots of legal blurb etc)

Please do let us know if you would like to attempt that record instead. If that is the case, you may wish to check with us again closer to submitting your full claim to be sure that a new record has not been set in the interim.

We wish you the best of luck in your record attempt and we look forward to hearing from you!

Yours sincerely,
Kimberly Partrick
Guinness World Records

No, Kimberly Partrick, I would not like to attempt to break the World record for the Most People Completing a Questionnare. I would like to attempt to break the World record for the Worlds Largest Reading Group.

So we're going to try it anyway.

Here's how it works.
We will now be attempting to break the record on Saturday July 30th to give people a chance to read the book (and also this will give us a chance to organise everything properly). Also, we imagine that other reading groups will be busy celebrating National Reading Group Day on June 25th, so it might not be the best day to do this.

The book we have chosen is Where Would I Be Without You by Guillaume Musso.
Having read it, I can assure you it is a book where there's a lot to talk about, hence the reason it was chosen. We've talked to the wonderful publishers, Gallic Books and are able to offer the book at a crazy low price. We hope that reading groups around the country will get involved and so the book is also available as a bundle, so that you can get copies for the other members of your reading group.

We're doing packs of 6 for £30. That's just a fiver a copy.  
single copies we're selling for £7.
And it's FREE Postage and Packing too.

We've set up a Facebook page called appropriately enough;

We will also have a Twitter Hashtag #readinggroup

We will soon be introducing the Forum which will enable us all to discuss the book together.

This is going to be ace. I would love it if you could join in. I would love it also if you could tell everyone you know who loves reading. Reading Groups are cool, reading is sexy and sprouts are green. With a bit of luck these 3 truths will make this world record attempt work (except the thing about the sprouts).

Please let the whole world know. Thanks.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sainsbury's. Chain Bookselling Company of the Year

Last night was the Bookseller Industry Awards. At a glitzy award ceremony (i'm assuming it was glitzy, I wasn't there) Sainsbury's scooped the Bookseller of the Year award.

"Sainsbury's was honoured with the Martina Cole General or Chain Bookselling Company of the Year Award after reinvigorating book zones, increasing book sales by more than 33% and attracting new book buyers to the market. One judge said: "We should celebrate the fact that they are embracing books and offering people an alternative place to buy—somewhere they can spend time browsing as well as buying."
I went into my local Sainsbury's today and after congratulating the person on the cigarettes and lotto counter (six items or less), I asked if they could show me where their books were.
Slightly baffled they said they didn't keep them.
That seemed strange for the winner of Martina Cole General or Chain Bookselling Company of the Year Award, especially after one of the judges says that Sainsbury's is a place that we can spend time browsing.

And I don't know about you, but anyone who uses the phrase reinvigorating book zones deserves a very stern talking to and a wedgie at the very least.

So, Sainsbury's are embracing books are they? Well, it's true to say that some of their branches are selling a small selection of general fiction titles at a ridiculously low price. It is also true that they have sold many many thousands of copies of Jamie Oliver's cookery books. They have nailed it with Jamie. Well, if I had 900 shops and sold Jamie Oliver's books for £2 less than I bought it for then I would probably have sold a few copies too.
They sell books, but this does not make them booksellers.

We have sold local honey in the past (Tottenham honey is delicious), but we don't expect to be acknowledged by The National Honey Association.

I have no problem with anybody selling books, but OUR INDUSTRY has recognised them as the Chain Bookselling Company of the Year. This says a great deal about chain bookshops but it says even more about our industry and where it sees the future of bookselling. And for that, I worry.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Our New Book Group for Graphic Novels

Last Wednesday we launched our new reading group dedicated to comics and graphic novels, and I think it’s fair to say the evening was a huge success. So before I go any further I’d like to thank all those who turned up and made it such a fun evening full of interesting ideas and lively debate.

As this was our first time, and indeed the first time for trying such a specific group, we began by talking about comics or graphic novels that we really like. I enthused about Batman: Year One, and from there we discovered fans of comics ranging from Naruto, through Deadpool, to David Boring. For those of you who were there don’t worry I shan’t mention Year One again, but Commissioner Gordon is very good in it isn’t he? Here he is looking moody and awesome.

Anyway... If this first meeting could be said to have a purpose it was really to set up the group and decide what we were going to read. Rather than follow the traditional book group path we decided to base our meetings on themes and suggested reading. For example, in June our Theme is Crime Noir as a genre and the main reading for this is Coward, volume 1 of the Criminal series by Ed Brubaker and Sean Philips. Ed Brubaker is an award winning writer who has worked on Daredevil, Batman and Captain America, though he first made his name with the comic ‘Scene of the Crime’ and is a great choice to kick off our Noir discussion. Coward is now available to buy in the shop at £9.99. Other reading suggestions include X-men Noir, a 1940s style take on the merry mutants, or 5 is the Perfect Number by Igor T. This is a fantastic Italian graphic novel exploring the relationship between a mob hitman and his father.

So even if you missed our debut it’s not too late to join us. This is what we're reading:

and our next meeting is on Wednesday June 8th at 7:00 in the shop. Any other examples of crime/noir comics are welcome and I hope to see you there.