Tuesday, 21 April 2015

World Book Night 2015

As the fifth WBN approaches, I have just been to a nearby library to pick up 18 copies of After the Fall by Charity Norman.

It was at the same library where a few weeks ago I attended an author event, a talk given by a best-selling author of crime thrillers, who mentioned that she did not like WBN as she felt it devalued books. She pointed out that authors put in many hours of research, writing and editing before a book is published - which of course all those who have written, or tried to write, a book will know - and she felt this effort should not be undermined by giving books away for free. But on the point of devaluing books or their authors - I can’t agree with her that WBN’s aims devalue books.  I think, it enhances them.

Yes, thousands of books are given away, but the volunteers are asked to give wisely, not just to hand them out to their friends who fancy a freebie. We are asked to give them to people who need a bit of encouragement to read, to those who don’t regularly read for pleasure or own books. A couple of years ago I gave a WBN copy of The Book Thief  to a colleague who told me he rarely read fiction. He loved it, and continued to ask me to recommend books and I leant him several. He now reads and buys fiction.  

I wrote once before about giving a WBN book to a client who was had serious depression and was not able to work. Living on a meagre income, her only pleasures were her two small dogs and reading. She was thrilled to be given a book that she could keep. ‘It’s the best thing that’s happened to me for ages,’ she said. It may not have changed her life but it changed her day, and hopefully a few more days as she read the book.

There is evidence that The WBN titles actually boost sales so authors gain too. I have certainly bought some titles as I felt that having been selected for WBN, they must be worth reading. I'm sure many other people have done the same.
I love the idea that I can help encourage people to develop a love of reading and am pleased to be part of WBN again this year. I hope the gift of a WBN book will 'make' a few more days for my recipients.


Charity Norman said...

Hi Lindsay,
I'm genuinely baffled that an author felt like this. It's true that a book represents years of work; but a book is written to be read, and every single time it is read it comes to life again. That's the whole point of a book. If thousands of people read books - people who would not otherwise read, let alone buy them - surely that is adding to the life of those books, and the joy of those readers and volunteer givers? And all the buzz around WBN - isn't that breathing life into reading? Of course authors and publishers can't give every book away, we need some kind of an income, but WBN involves thousands of people, of all walks of life, in a beautiful giving event. It's designed not to devalue but to celebrate the magic of books and reading. Long Live World Book Night! I hope it goes from strength to strength, and is taken up around the world.
Incidentally, the publishers all need a massive round of applause - they foot the bill for these special editions.
Thank you for this great blog post. I was moved by your story of the client who was so thrilled to be given a book. I too have known people who literally could not afford one (and certainly not a kindle) and to them a book is real treasure.
And now I must get back to the collection of words on my computer, which I hope will one day be a book in somebody's hands!
Charity Norman

Joanna said...

All books are to be treasured and all authors write to be read. WBN sounds like the perfect way to ensure more people discover the joy of reading and this can only be an advantage for authors who would like to reach a wider readership. Like Charity, I found your post both moving and encouraging, Lindsay, and hope WBN continues to flourish. x

Patsy said...

I attended a world book night event at the local bookshop last year and there were people giving out the free books. That seemed rather daft and if that's the experience of the author you mention I do see her point.