World Book Night 1

Posted by Guy Pringle, 8th March 2011

World Book Night seems not only to have been a success on the night but to have created a will to repeat the event next year. And I have to say originator Jamie Byng handled a delicate situation well on Radio 4’s Front Row last week. Mark Lawson hosted a conversation between Jamie and an unhappy supporter in Devon who felt that website breakdown and lateness of information had taken the edge off the excitement for her. Confessing to similar frustration, Jamie nevertheless held steady to his belief that the idea was sound and it was the volunteers involved who would make it a success or failure. From accounts coming into newbooks HQ it would seem it was the former.


From the Black Country, Sarah Akhtar sent in the following account and below it her friend Cynthia Dumbleton adds her thoughts:


“In the same week that I learned children are more likely to own a mobile phone than a book, I also learned that I had been chosen as one of the 20,000 givers on World Book Night. This amazing idea was the brainchild of independent publisher, Jamie Byng who set out to recruit volunteers across the UK who would each be given 48 specially printed copies of a book to give away, no strings attached, to members of the public on Saturday March 5th. Potential givers could choose from one of 25 titles selected by Byng and his committee and I chose Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. This book had impressed me for many reasons, not least the fact that the author was not yet 30 years old and yet had achieved a handling of human emotions in exquisite prose of great maturity.

You would expect giving something away to be easy but the idea that you can get something for nothing seems unlikely to most of us and we are told repeatedly that if an offer seems too good to be true it probably is. My original idea had been to give the books to students but, where would I find them on a Saturday evening? I finally decided to stand in the foyer of the film theatre at Staffs University where people would be arriving to see the film Black Swan, I placed posters all around the university in the week prior to March 5th hoping to attract some young people but, in the event, very few of those who came were under 30. I even took my son and his wife along to help, (they at least are under 40) but it was the usual film theatre crowd of sixty somethings who came with just the occasional young person.

We laid out our books on a table in a prominent position and most noticed us on arrival, many had heard about World Book Night and nearly all were pleased to be given a free book, only a few had already read it, as they left us and made their way into the theatre I even suggested the book could come in useful during the scary bits of the film as a means of covering their eyes! After 45 minutes all the books had gone and our table was bare so we left for home, but now the real adventure begins as my 48 books all set off on their own travels. How many will I be able to follow on the WBN website using their individual ID numbers? How far will they go? How many people will eventually read the book as a result of my 45 minutes in the film theatre on Saturday evening?”


Sarah Akhtar



Cynthia Dumbleton gave away 48 copies of Half of a Summer Sun outside the library in Newcastle-under-Lyme in half an hour!  “No surprise I suppose as many readers were using the public library and the pedestrianised street is busy on a Saturday morning. Other members of the reading group had turned up because they knew I had volunteered for this exciting venture. We found it exhilarating to be giving something of great value away for no charge at all.
It is a wonderful idea to donate books.  All the people I spoke to said they were happy to pass on their book and would do so once they'd read it.  Long may Book Day continue and long may people read real books, either bought or borrowed from libraries.”


Marjorie Neilson said...

I was lucky enough to be part of an organised event at my local library where pupils from a local secondary school came long (yes even on a Saturday night) and were pleased to receive a copy of "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time" and/or "Dissolution" which another giver brought along. I also went to all my neighbours and gave them a copy, even to a teacher who knew nothing about World Book Night but enthused about the idea. I have also sent 3 copies to friends in Canada, America and Australia and some within the UK. So hopefully I will be able to track some through Book Crossing or the WBN websites. Still have some pre-ordered copies to distribute. Looking forward to next year to see what is on offer.

Posted on Tue 08 Mar 2011 @ 16:53

Sarah Akhtar said...

Thanks Guy, but I don't think Staffs University would like to think they were in the Black Country. We are well north of Lenny Henry's childhood home, in The Potteries!
Only joking - well done.

Posted on Thu 17 Mar 2011 @ 08:52

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