It's World Book Day today. Happy World Book Day! Are you doing anything special to celebrate? I have just finished re-reading The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie in preparation for giving away 48 copies of the book for World Book Night on 5th March. I'm also writing a stage play based on another book by Muriel Spark and as my book, The Miracle Inspector, is featured at Kindle Nation Daily today, I'm expecting to sell lots of copies in the US and the UK. Reading, writing, selling books... actually, every day is World Book Day for me.
I'm honoured to have been invited to take part in the launch of World Book Night on Friday 4th March. I'll be interviewed on stage in Trafalgar Square by Graham Norton about why I signed up to give away The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark, and who I plan to give it to. As some of you know, I volunteer as a mentor with an exiled writing group through the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture. I'll be giving about half of the books to them - and doing a special follow-up workshop in May, once they have read the books - and giving the rest away in the Clapham/Brixton area of London, where I live.
The World Book Night launch event on 4th March is hosted by Graham Norton and will be filmed for the BBC, and a new arts channel called Hibrow TV. Margaret Atwood is flying over from Canada to read from her book, and other authors will be there on the night to give readings and support the event, including DCB Pierre, Alan Bennett, Nick Cave, John le Carré, Rupert Everett, Mark Haddon, Hanif Kureishi, Edna O’Brien, Philip Pullman, Lemn Sissay and Derek Walcott.
World Book Night was the idea of Jamie Byng, publisher at Canongate Books, and is supported by BBC2, Betrams, Clays, the CPI group, FSC, Gardeners, Hibrow, Holmes Paper, Pentagram Design and Stora Enson. The World Book Night event in Trafalgar Square tomorrow is sponsored by Sony and its Sony Reader, and Waterstones.
World Book Night is a brilliant, ambitious initiative that has been conceived by an industry in crisis. Rather than putting up prices or sticking pages of advertising into books, or giving up and applying for jobs elsewhere, they are giving away a million books in a celebration of reading. They are hoping to foster a love of reading among people who don't buy books, and get people who do buy them to talk about their favourites and share their love of reading more widely.
It seems like a clever idea to me, and I can't understand the carping from some independent booksellers and some authors - as if, by giving away one copy of a book to someone who would otherwise not read it, those participating in World Book Night are somehow depriving book shops and authors of their profits. It's not as if people will only buy one book a year. If this was World Car Night and they were giving away a million cars, I could understand why the motor industry might protest.
As a writer, I'd love more people to buy books. As a reader, I'd love people to read more books. World Book Night is a great way to encourage them to do it. Isn't it?
Happy World Book day!