It’s been almost a week since the hype surrounding World Book Night reached its crescendo, as 20,000 givers prepared to hand out 1 million books across the UK. On the Friday before the book giving commenced, book givers received a welcome, appreciative email from Jamie Byng, Chair of World Book Night:
From the moment this wildly ambitious project to celebrate writing and reading on one night was conceived, it was the passion of readers that we always knew was going to lie at its very heart. IF it is a success, it is going to be down to the personal passion of the givers who are sharing their love for a book with hundreds of thousands of people across the country.
I signed up to become a World Book Night giver in December, choosing to giveaway The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark. With impending library closure and the general downturn trend in book buying, promoting reading seemed like a perfectly good idea. Yet, the idea quickly attracted critics like Vanessa Robertson, owner of the Edinburgh Bookshop, who called the idea ‘misguided and misjudged’. She suggested that it would ‘flood the market with free books and devalue the work of authors in the eyes of the public’. Seriously, what a load of nonsense.
However, this attack on the book-giving event was a clever one; it hit us faithful book lovers where it hurt. It was no-ones intention to ‘flood the market’ or ‘devalue’ writing and so givers (myself included) frantically scrambled to come up with even more ingenious ideas, so that we looked as though not only did we want to spread the joy of reading, we now wanted to appease every critic and independent bookseller in the land. As more elaborate, fan-dangled book giving plans emerged, I regret being pressured into coming up with my own explicitly-book-industry-friendly plan. Continue reading