Friday, March 04, 2011

World Book Night?!?

Tomorrow, March 5th, is World Book Night. Why the hell didn't we think of this?

From the Guardian UK:

World Book Night 2011

The first ever World Book Night is being held on Saturday, with events across the UK being held and at least 1million free books being given away.
 Here are the books being given away. Here is a ton more about the Trafalgar Square event.

Still, there are always assholes people who have a problem with EVERYTHING. Seriously.

Vanessa Robertson, who owns the Edinburgh Bookshop in Bruntsfield, Edinburgh, has claimed that, far from spreading the joy of reading, World Book Night will simply flood the market with free books and devalue the work of authors in the eyes of the public.

In a highly critical blog posted on the website State of Independents Robertson says many booksellers are "horrified" by the "misguided and misjudged" venture.

"One million books flooding a struggling book trade; one million copies of books which make up a good part of many bookshops' sales (David Nicholl's One Day; Muriel Spark's The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie; Case Histories by Kate Atkinson; Fingersmith by Sarah Waters to name a few); one million books being given away, further reinforcing the notion that we're all there to provide a public service and that authors, publishers and booksellers don't deserve or need to make a living," she wrote.

Others echoed her view. One independent bookseller, who would only speak anonymously for fear of being labelled "curmudgeonly", said: "We're champions of the book and independent reading and people enriching their lives and bringing people to appreciate the value of books. I don't see how giving stuff away will help." He queried whether World Book Night would bring in new readers, saying: "I suspect it will be nice bookish people giving the books to other nice bookish people."

World Book Night has been accused by a number of authors and independent booksellers of damaging the struggling book trade, but Atwood – whose novel The Blind Assassin is among those being given away – responded by saying: "Other booksellers are enthusiastically participating, as it spreads the word on books and makes them available to people who would otherwise not have them or be able to afford them. Also: I gave a book by Kate Atkinson away recently and the person I gave it to liked it so much that she bought all the others."
 Curmudgeonly? Nah. One book per person isn't going to crash the book trade in the entire UK and if it does then they were fucked already. Sorry, but that's the truth.
Andrew Bentley-Steed, who manages Robertson's Edinburgh bookshop... suggested that a better event would be a "Fair Trade Book Fortnight" at which all retailers agreed to charge the full cover price for their books to support authors.
Um, I know what we could call that: Tuesday. No, wait, Thursday. No, no, no, I've got it: Saturday. For the most part, I buy my books at a great independent bookstore in Cambridge and I always pay full price. Always. So how is "Fair Trade Book Fortnight" an event? The answer is it isn't. Wah, wah. However the charmingly named Nic Bottomley has the right attitude:

Nic Bottomley, owner of Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath, called World Book Night "a great idea" likely to inspire people who received a free book to buy others to give away in turn. "I don't buy the argument that the market will be flooded," he said. "Giving away a million free books sounds like a lot, but in the context of the 250m we sell across the trade each year, it's absolutely nothing. I did a back-of-the-envelope calculation and it works out at just three or four books for each independent bookshop. I don't think there's any independent that wouldn't give away that number if it encourages book-lovers."
 Phew! Haters just think of all the readers you might actually gain if you give an individual a book that changes their world and instills a lifetime love of reading . Anyway, I love this idea and for a nation like ours, which doesn't really read as much as we should, I think it would be totally cool to have something like this in the US but, of course, it would have to be more than 1,000,000 books since our population is a little larger than the United Kingdom. A little.

So, what books would you like to give and/or get? I would love to give copies of Farmer Duck by Martin Waddell. It is the best, clearest, most simple Marxist fable kids book of all time. We might as well start 'em early, eh, regressive right? "Moo, bah, cluck, and that was that."

Wonder what some of your favorite authors would like to give or receive? Glad you asked...the Guardian asked several dozen current writers what their choice would be. Check their suggestions out here.

Have a good weekend.

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