World Book Night

With the full support of the Publishers Association, the Booksellers Association, the Independent Publishers Guild, the Reading Agency with libraries, World Book Day and the BBC, one million books will be given away by an army of passionate readers to members of the public across the UK and Ireland

It’s an ambitious venture intended to spread a buzz about the joy of reading up and down the country.

But a report in The Guardian describes the doubts that some have about the mass giveaway.  They argue that it could impact negatively on independent booksellers struggling to survive in a particularly tough retail climate, while failing to reward authors properly for their work.

One day between now and next Saturday (5 March), let’s each of us buy a book, preferably from an actual bookshop, or direct from a publisher. Any book, Nicola Morgan suggests on her blog.

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.

Stressing that she wanted her proposal to be seen as a positive intervention in the debate, Morgan explained:

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.

Susan Hill is among the novelists responding with enthusiasm to the idea. Hill said she was “totally against” the mass giveaway of pre-selected books in the World Book Night scheme.

One of my publishers has had to spend £40,000 on printing books to give away which is £40,000 he cannot now use to publish and promote new authors. This is a much better idea and I’m up for it.

This puts me in mind of Bookcrossing, a free online book club which began in order to encourage the practice, aiming to “make the whole world a library.”

The ‘crossing’ or exchanging of books may take any of a number of forms, including wild releasing books in public, direct swaps with other members of the websites, or “book rings” in which books travel in a set order to participants who want to read a certain book. The community aspect of has grown and expanded in ways that were not expected at the outset, in the form of blog or forum discussions, mailing lists and annual conventions throughout the world.

You can find your local Meet Up group here.