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.
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.