Sunday, 27 February 2011

OUR WORLD BOOK NIGHT

World Book Night is an initiative which aims to give away a million books in one night - next Saturday, 5th March. I love the idea of promoting reading - of course - and I'm not at all against giving things away, but I admit that I think there were better ways to give away a million books than this particular scheme. Simpler ways, ways which would benefit authors, bookshops and publishers. All of them. Whereas this initiative not only does not benefit them all, but has some knock-on costs.

However, the other day I had a friendly meeting with the organiser, Jamie Byng of Canongate Books, and bookseller Vanessa Robertson, owner of the fabulous Edinburgh Bookshop, who has been vocal in her reservations about the delivery of WBN, and I wanted to do something to contribute to the spirit of the venture in a way that I can be fully comfortable with.

Let me first explain about WBN.

The WBN venture chooses 25 books, arranges for 40,000 copies of each to be printed as a special edition by their publishers, with royalties voluntarily waived by their authors, and asks 20,000 volunteer givers to choose one title, receive 48 copies of it and give them away in an appropriate manner on the night of March 5th. My concerns are that the parlous nature of the book industry, falling revenues for booksellers, publishers and authors, and the constant erosion of the value of what we do, are not best improved by giving away one million especially printed books, which would have retailed at around £9million if sold in the normal way. Of course, there will be some benefits - crikey, imagine if there weren't! The benefits to some might even be huge; let's hope they are, even if the costs are high.

I just think there were better ways, which could have stronger results at less cost to a struggling industry.

After Vanessa had blogged about this, many people agreed with her, though some didn't, naturally. There are also many people who have muttered about WBN and not said anything publicly. I added a comment to Vanessa's blog post, amongst a load of other comments. Mine was the only one picked up by the Guardian and quoted in a subsequent newspaper article. The article said I was "happy to air objections" but I don't feel particularly happy objecting, actually. I'd rather do something positive.

So, rather than ignoring WBN, I have a contribution, and I'd like you all to join me. Of course, I'd also like you to support World Book Night in whatever ways you wish, including the intended one, but this is mine and I hope you like it.

Our World Book Night
One day between now and next Saturday (March 5th), let's each of us buy a book, preferably from an actual bookshop, or direct from a publisher. Any book. Write inside it: "Given in the spirit of World Book Night, March 5th 2011 and bought from [insert name of shop] - please enjoy and tell people about it." And give it to someone. Anyone. A friend or stranger, a library or school or doctor's surgery or anything.

Then go home, and enjoy whatever you're reading yourself.

It's very simple and everyone wins: the bookshop, the recipient, the author, the publisher, the agent, even you, the giver, because you'll enjoy the frisson of pleasure that comes from giving. There are no losers. That's why I like it. And I'll be buying my book from The Edinburgh Bookshop.

One more thing: please pledge in a comment below that you are going to do this, and spread the word. If even fifty people do this, that's fifty books that wouldn't have been bought. Call me simple, but I like that idea a lot.

105 comments:

D.J. Kirkby said...

What a fantastic idea! Count me in.

joannacannon said...

I'm definitely in. What a wonderful idea ... and so much fun to choose the book and the recipient!

Mike Jarman said...

Excellent idea, Nicola. Count me in. I look forward to the great pleasure of choosing the book to give. I hate shopping, but love book buying!
And then the decision of the recipient.
Or should I choose who first and then make my book choice? Hmm... Food for thought as I walk with Murphy on the moor.
Very good luck with your superb initiative.

Tam said...

Count me in! I've got a teen event on World Book Night so can definitely find a recipient :)

Bethany Mason said...

I love this idea and am definitely in :)

Sarah Duncan said...

What a good idea - count me in Nicola. I'm already thinking of what I'm going to give, and to whom.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant idea. I wanted to be a giver but found the idea of trying to find so many worthy recipients put me off.

Count me in.

Ann Patey

Nicola Morgan said...

Fab response, everyone - thank you! I'm going to buy Vivian French's Pink Pyjama Party and give it to a young girl I know who isn't a big reader but does love Viv's books and this is perfect for her. I will also buy something for adults, to take to a party I'm going to that night, and I will give it to the first person who says something worth rewarding!

thecatsrrar said...

Superb idea and I'll take part! Am also planning a blog post about it this week and will include this!

Katherine Langrish said...

I think it's a very good idea - I'll do it, and I'll Facebook and Tweet it too.

Linda Gillard said...

Blindingly brilliant idea. Thanks, Nicola. I've had reservations about WBN since it was first mooted but felt like a grouchbag saying so. Count me in.

Suzanne Collier said...

This is EXACTLY what World Book Night should have been. A win-win for all. I'll definitely be doing this!

liz fenwick said...

Count me in! Brilliant idea.
lx

Gillian Philip said...

Brilliant idea, count me in! xx

JonathanM said...

This is a fantastic idea and much closer in spirit to the original Spanish version of World Book Day.

Gillian Philip said...

Whoops, I could just have said 'invert Liz's comment' :-)

Laura Wilkinson said...

This is fantastic. I'm in, and I know which book I'll be giving. Just got to choose the lucky recipient...

Lucy Coats said...

I'm in. What an utterly brilliant idea. Will FB and tweet too. Am on a train on WBD/N so will find a suitable stranger to accost with a book and write about it on Scribble City Central.

Keris Stainton said...

Great idea. I'm in.

Nikki Heath :) said...

Am also in :) :) :)

Stephanie McGregor said...

I'm in!

SARAH SALWAY said...

Brilliant idea. I'm with you. And those in London can go to the Big Green bookshop which needs help.

crimeficreader said...

Count me in too! I did not apply in the end as I had reservations about the scheme. This format counters one of them: I get to pick the book! (As in not from a pre-selected by others limited range.)

Gillian Philip said...

This just seems SO simple and appropriate! You're a genius, Crabbit, but we knew that. (Don't worry, hen, I will go back to normal rude mode later.)

Geevor Tin Mine said...

Great idea. Will do.

Jenny Beattie said...

If it's okay to do this in Bangkok - with the spirit in mind - I'm in too.

srussell said...

Good idea. Will do.

SUSAN HILL said...

Excellent idea.I am totally against the mass giveaway of pre-selected books. One of my publishers has had to spend 40K on printing books to give away which is 40K he cannot now use to publish and promote new authors. This is a much better idea and I`m up for it. Will let you know what I choose.

Effie said...

I'm in! Next Saturday I will be spending an hour at Newcastle train station, waiting for my connection back home. I pledge to buy a book and give it to a stranger.

Nicola said...

This is a brilliant idea! I'm in!

Zoe said...

Count me in too! Great to read your positive response to WBD.

Wyres said...

I've been chosen as a giver by WBN and to be honest I'd not given much thought to the cost incurred and loss of revenue to all concerned.

I could only think of the positive side of being able to encourage people to read who might not necessarily pick up a book.

As I'm collecting my books this week from a local independent bookshop. I'm going to purchase two extra books of Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, one for me to read and one to hand to a random stranger.

Great idea. :)

Dan Holloway said...

Nicola, at eight cuts gallery press we will be giving away 10 of our books - 5 each of The Dead Beat and Charcoal - at our local bookstore, Oxford'a Albion Beatnik - to anyone who buys a book of their choice from the store. We will, of course, be paying the full £2 royalty to the authors for each book.

Neezes said...

Great idea - I'm a WBN giver but will definitely do this too. Any excuse to go and buy a book! People in North Ayrshire might want to visit Books in the West, a really good independent shop (Main Street, West Kilbride).

Kristin Pedroja said...

Done. And shared.

Laura Anderson said...

I think this is a brilliant idea, I'm definitely in! Now to think of a book...

JO said...

Great idea - count me in!

Nik Perring said...

Brilliant idea!

Rachel Carter said...

I'm in! Not sure who, what, where or when. But it will be fun choosing!

FlossieT said...

Very much with you in spirit, though will have to rack my brains as to what the book should be and who to give it to...

Catt said...

This is a great idea, Nicola. Like Rachel, not sure who/what/where/when but I am in London on Thursday so mauybe I'll harrass a stranger yelling "read" or something. We'll see. But yes, I'm in. Will have to come back and let you know my chosen book and recipient :)

Claire King said...

I'm in! Great idea.

Beth Kemp said...

Me too, me too! I don't yet know what or who, but that's part of the fun. A great idea - simple and likely to be effective. Have you considered running for Parliament?

Pam Reader said...

Fantastic idea! Count me in.

Anonymous said...

I am a WBN giver who's getting a bit fed up of the criticism of it. I can see and understand both sides of the debate but am still happy with my decision to participate. Frankly, my opinion is that the opposition is starting to come across as a bit petty and elitist - I know that's not the intent but it is looking like the impact. And as for your idea, I already do something similar via www.bookcrossing.com.

Joanna Nadin said...

What a wonderful idea. Am in. x

dan powell said...

Great idea that does indeed benefit everyone. Will be doing this.

Oscar Windsor-Smith said...

As one of the 20,000 WBN givers I'm saddened that being a giver has begun to feel more like a confession of complicity than a cause for pleasure.

So why am I involved?

I guess I applied to be a giver without any thought deeper than: WBN is backed by the publishing industry, participating authors and the BBC, how can that be anything but good?

I do, however, recognise some of the points made by Vanessa of the State of Independents blog in her post 'WBN - Misguided and Misjudged' as addressing questions I have recently asked myself.

Having offered my services in good faith to WBN I will carry out that obligation to the best of my abilities. Despite a few glitches, the event is under way, many givers - including me - have received their books and are planning a giving strategy.

Surely nobody can doubt the good intentions of the people involved in WBN? So let's stop bickering and support World Book Night. The only fair way to judge whether WBN is a stroke of genius or simply Pi in the sky is by the outcome.

Nicola Morgan said...

Anonyomous and Oscar - thanks for dropping in and commenting but can i point out that I said "Of course, I'd also like you to support World Book Night in whatever ways you wish, including the intended one, but this is mine and I hope you like it." There's no bickering at all here and the whole point has been about being positive. I am simply offering my version, which I believe answers the criticisms.

I think it's fantastic that you're going to the trouble of being givers in the WBN scheme. I hope you'll join this idea as well.

Stroppy Author said...

Hi Crabbit - as you know, I'm a giver (with some reservations) and have put both sides of the argument on my blog. I think this is a good idea to extend it. I can't promise I'll manage to do yours as well - doing even the original WBN will be a challenge under current circumstances - but it sounds as if you have lots of support. Hurray!

Anonymous said...

And if you register your book at www.bookcrossing.com you might even get to see where your book ends up! :-)

Becky Goddard-Hill said...

I'll be 52

Paul said...

Re anonymous: "elitist"? My objections are that the selected books are, in the main, the sort discussed by Sunday newspaper book columns. They should be classics (old or modern) or more accessible.

I love the idea of giving a book or two away - so to add to the mix, read my views at my book review blog, leave me a comment suggesting a book and I'll add the best three to my giveaways.

(A bit self-serving, I know, but it's one of my better book-related rants.)

catdownunder said...

Miaou - late to the party today but I have now blogged about this. I have directed my furraithful readers here and added a further suggestion.

Ebony McKenna. said...

I love this idea - and I urge everyone to keep their receipts because it may be tax deductible.

Can I selfishly buy and give away copies of my book, or should I give a book people might enjoy? LOL!

David Griffin said...

Excellent idea. :-)

Rebecca Emin said...

What a superb idea. I'm going to buy a book from the Big Green Bookshop online.

http://woodgreenbookshop.blogspot.com/

Jo said...

Great idea, i'm in! I have been 'lurking'(sorry!) around your blog for a couple of months now, I have just submitted my first picture book manuscript and found all of your advice and posts really helpful - thank you. Now to decide which book to buy and who to give it to!

Dorothy Koomson said...

Fabulous idea. I'm in.

Jeremy said...

me too, definitely

Anthem said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sarah Callejo said...

Excellent, count me in too please.

Marshall Buckley said...

OK. I'm in too (sorry, a but late to the party).
Have no idea what book yet, or who I'm going to give it to, but I'm going to buy from http://www.biggreenbookshop.com/ and kill two birds with one stone.
(Great to see the article in The Guardian, too. Well done, Nicola!)

Moi said...

A quality idea that I've passed on!

Tom Conoboy said...

It's a great idea. I will take you up on this, and I'm going to mention this on my blog as well to try to spread the word.

Catherine Hughes said...

Hi folks!

Nicola can't get to a computer right now but she has asked me to post amessage to let you kjnow that she is really thrilled by your support and is hugely grateful for it. She's had messages on FaceBook and Twitter, too, and is delighted by the Guardian article - http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/feb/28/alternative-world-book-night-plan.

As for me, well we buy books every World Book Day - I buy a book for each of my children. But I've told them about this and we are talking about giving the books this year to other kids who might not have the same access to books as my kids (with their bookaholic mother) do.

Teresa Stenson said...

This is brilliant.

Fiona said...

This is a fantastic idea wish I'd heard of it when I went to pick up my books or I'd have got one then.

This is a maybe from me - no scrap that - a definitely. Not sure if it'll be on the night but as soon as I get down a booksho.

Caroline said...

Fantastico! I will cycle up to The Hyndland Bookshop in Glasgow tomorrow and buy my book. And so much easier than finding 48 folk!

Alison Runham said...

Count me in :-)
Not sure when or where yet. I also have two books I've mistakenly doubled up on recently when buying presents, so I might give those away too.

Janet O'Kane said...

Brilliant idea. I'm doing it. Will blog about it too.

Catherine Czerkawska said...

I'll do it too!

DOT said...

I knew you were really famous but never appreciated quite what a celeb you are (oxymoron?), but, look, even the Bookseller is tripping over your high heels down the red carpet.

http://www.thebookseller.com/news/author-proposes-wbn-alternative.html

M Louise Kelly said...

Great idea. i'll do it too.

Nicola Morgan said...

Back briefly from World Book DAY events, but only briefly. Just wanted to call by and say a big THANK YOU to everyone for your support. I've also had some very interesting emails and messages from a whole load of authors and booksellers who support my idea. And some other interesting people, too!

As you've seen, the Guardian and the Bookseller both picked up the story, which rather surprised me, as I'd not sent any press release or anything - all I did was blog and do a bit of stuff of Twitter.

I would like to point out that everyone seems to be calling my suggestion an "alternative" World Book Night - it isn't. I never used that word. I suggested it as an extra, and I'd call it "complementary".

Tomorrow, i'll be blogging again, this time about World Book Day. I may feel the need to mention WBN too. But, if anything, to damp down the unnecessary confrontation. I want WBN to succeed.

Elizabeth Baines said...

I'll do it.

Jan Jones said...

Love your idea. I have a very slightly alternative plan in mind. Can't say now, as it is to be a (I hope) nice surprise, but does involve buying real book from real bookshop & giving.

Also, v much better than original WBN plan!

Jo said...

I got my book today, Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke, and I am giving it to my godson.

schammond said...

I'm a giver but from the start wasn't going to arrange an event in a library or bookshop (despite being a librarian and friend of independent bookshop owner) precisely because I couldn't see the point of pushing on an open door. I live in a fairly down-at-heel housing estate and will be setting up my stall in the local chip shop on Saturday. I'm quite nervous about what sort of a reception I'll get, and if I'll still have 48 books left at the end of the evening. I think given the choice I would have picked a different line-up of books to give, but I genuinely love the book I am giving (A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry) and I hope that will see me through. So I like your idea too and good luck everybody.

Catherine Cooper said...

What a brilliant idea... one everyone can take part in.

I've been asked to open a new library in a school on World Book Day and I'd already decided to take three books with me to donate to their new bookshelves.

Reymos said...

Thanks for sharing this simple gesture to make this event successful thru our individual initiatives. I think we could do it not only on the 5th March but on a regular basis - Purchase and Release! It reminded me of Bookcrossing's ongoing mission. Well, as a simple way of supporting the event, being a giver I printed bookmark cards (postcard size) to be distributed together with books. Good luck everyone! Share the power of books!

Captain Black said...

This is a great idea and has a lovely pay it forward feel to it. I'm in.

Ben said...

Lovely idea. We have asked our fans to do just as you suggest: http://www.hopeandsocial.com/2011/03/02/meet-hope-and-social-the-chickens/

Mardi said...

Great idea. Buying my book tomorrow.

Tania Hershman said...

Wonderful idea, I'm in! I'm off to the Bath Lit Fest tomorrow so will buy a book there. Good on ya, Ms Morgan!

Oscar Windsor-Smith said...

Thanks, Nicola, for responding to my comment above.

Combining both approaches - at least on this first World Book Night - seems an excellent idea. Accordingly, with generous help from Verulam Writers' Circle - http://www.verulamwriterscircle.org.uk/ - I'll be giving away copies of VWCs anthology The Archangel and the White Hart (duly labelled as you suggest) as well as Ben Macintyre's Agent ZigZag, in St Albans on WBN.

In addition, I am using the free labels available from BookCrossing.com to track both sets of books on their journey.

Thanks for a great idea.

Oscar

Hosted BES said...

It sounds to be an amazing idea!

BucksWriter said...

Just bought a Diana Athill from the at risk Big Green Bookshop and will be giving it away on twitter. Great idea Nicola!

Zannah Kearns said...

Wow, so many comments! I've blogged and tweeted about it - I think it's the simplicity of it, and everyone getting to choose something they care about is what makes it so good. And, as you say, everyone's a winner!

Celia Rees said...

I think this is an excellent idea, Nicola. I dislike book giveaways on principle - apart from undermining independent booksellers and putting a strain on already strapped publishers, the whole scheme seemed patronizing and elitist. Your idea round these problems neatly and by leaving the choice up to the giver promises to introduce readers to a rich variety of authors instead of familiar names that they already know from the best seller lists. I hope that your scheme works and it will become the thing we all do on Grown Up World Book Day.

Elen C said...

Great idea, Nicola!
Today I bought 'All Kinds of Transport' for my nearly-three year old nephew. The nearest we have to an independent bookshop is an independent toy shop (Jack and Jill's in Totterdown) with a book section. I went there. I hope that will do?!

Catt said...

I am a recipient of a variation of your idea, Nicola, and now own 'the night torn with mad footsteps' by Charles Bukowski and am a happy bunny.

I have bought Aesop's Fables to give. I've decided to give it to a very good friend of mine. It's a fab book, one that is kind of for a child yet so so great for an adult to read too. It's shorties and you know I am a shorty lover. but the morals in it too. Definitely a book everyone should read at least once.

Speaking of your alternative world book night, I was collecting some reserved books from the library today and the librarian (who was pretty hot) brought up world book night, and omg SQUEE what does she mention but your idea, Nicola. This was v cool. It's really spread. So fab.

High five!

Catt said...

argh, i said alternative! Sorry. Actually being trying to just referr to it as 'Our World Book Night' mostly. slipped. blame exhaustion.

keef said...

At last some common sense . A great idea and good for the booktrade and readers! Thankyou

keef said...

At last some common sense . A great idea for readers and the Booktrade! WELL SAID.

womagwriter said...

I'm late to this but what a fantastic idea. I'll do it. I'll also blog it now, and hopefully pick up a few more for you!

WriterMelS said...

I bought my friend a copy of Katie Fforde's Love Letters as I knew she would like it.

Thanks for a great idea, fantastic to be a part of it x

Kath said...

Count me in! It's such a great idea. I've bought Twenty Thousand Saints by Fflur Dafydd. I'd buy one for everyone if I could but I'm looking forward to finding it a great home.

Simon Whaley said...

Great idea Nicola - and I can now confirm that I have done it! Read about it in my blog psoting: http://www.simonwhaley.co.uk/2011/03/our-world-book-night/

DHF said...

Excellent idea! I too am a giver for WBN and it looks like it is going to encourage lots of people to buy books they may not have bothered with before.

I have been out and bought a book from my local bookshop - Bookends in Keswick for the "Our World Book Night" Might be tempted to read before I give away though!!

I have already distributed half of my WBN books, some have said they never read but will have a go - lets hope they become avid book readers in the future.

Lizzy Siddal said...

Book selected, bought and giving post published here.

http://lizzysiddal.wordpress.com/2011/03/06/tss-a-personal-selection-for-world-book-night-giveaway/

Amanda said...

Thank you Nicola for voicing my objection, and turning it into something as positive as this! I think this honours the contribution everyone makes to get a book into a reader's hands, and says, "I value reading enough to share it with you." I will definitely be joining in - maybe next year we could have a party too? Amanda

Iain Paton said...

I like the concept of WBN but it's way too mass-market in a coffee-table sort of way, and not personal or creative enough. Why not hand over second-hand books instead? The one you really wanted to keep forever? Or buy a new version (paperback) to give away and keep the old one!

Nicola Morgan said...

Iain - while I am (of course) all in favour of giving away books you don't need any more, giving away a secondhand book doesn't fulfil my aims for WBN: promoting the health of the book industry from author to bookshop. Without new sales, authors simply can't write - and I don't mean that loosely: it is literally the case that publishers drop authors who don't sell enough.

Paul said...

Copies of George MacDonald Fraser's short stories to two housebound old men, via a health visitor friend, and copies of a local tourist guide to a struggling small restaurant owner - who will keep them on display for customers to look at. All bought from local bookstore.

Thank you for a great idea.