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
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.”