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One million books to be given away
December 2, 2010 10:16 AM   Subscribe

One million books will be given away for free in the UK & Ireland as part of World Book Night. Any adult can apply to receive a box of 48 copies of their favorite from a list of 25 titles, by the likes of John le Carre and Toni Morrison, and give them away as they please. The ambition is to roll out the idea worldwide in future years if it proves a success in the UK.
posted by philipy (27 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
I was all ready to scoff at this, all ready to assume the books were airport paperbacks with Beloved and The Spy Who Came in From the Cold tossed in to lend prestige. But was I wrong! Cloud Atlas! All Quiet on the Western Front! Fingersmith! I'm now rooting for this to suceed so that it could happen here in the States.
posted by minervous at 10:21 AM on December 2, 2010


I remember the advice for bands was always - charge for your demo, however little, because people will respect and listen to it rather than pick up a copy just because it's free then toss it away. This seems like a good idea in principle, but 48 copies of the same book is ridiculous and a waste.
posted by fire&wings at 10:23 AM on December 2, 2010


What an awesome idea!
posted by brundlefly at 10:23 AM on December 2, 2010


First hit is free!
posted by entropicamericana at 10:24 AM on December 2, 2010


This is amazing. I still have an old crummy copy of All Quiet from high school, where we got to take the loan books home at the end of the year because they were all falling to pieces. Like minervous, I was anticipating a pile of either "meh" books or "summer reading assignment" books, but these are some really quality choices!
posted by specialagentwebb at 10:25 AM on December 2, 2010


Damn, what a great reason to spontaneously jump continents.
posted by mooselini at 10:28 AM on December 2, 2010


That's a fascinating idea. By making the public responsible for the dissemination of the books, presumably to people within their community, and letting those doing the giveaway pick from a list to find a book that they like... That's a kind of reality tweaking, creating a shared cultural experience. I can see where this could help bring a community even slightly closer together, as having common experiences such as this provides, even in a small way, a common set of metaphors and language.

I dunno. I love this idea.
posted by hippybear at 10:29 AM on December 2, 2010


all ready to assume the books were airport paperbacks

Yes, I initially guessed they'd be something like that too. But no, it's a really impressive list, even featuring poetry. If anything I fear it might be too highbrow a selection to entice more people into reading!

Definitely rooting for this to be a big hit, and hoping a few Mefites get to be distributors.

It's wonderful that there will be mass participation in the giving away, and it's not just going to be done via bookshops or libraries or some such. That personal connection is much more likely to make this a success.
posted by philipy at 10:38 AM on December 2, 2010


America's version is that the Gov't will pick up and dispose of up to 48 books free of charge.
posted by 2bucksplus at 10:39 AM on December 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


I remember the advice for bands was always - charge for your demo, however little, because people will respect and listen to it rather than pick up a copy just because it's free then toss it away. This seems like a good idea in principle, but 48 copies of the same book is ridiculous and a waste.

It's different when you get the demo from an excited friend rather than the band, though, and I think that's the idea here. I dunno... I'm pretty isolated, and I still don't think I'd have any problem spreading 48 copies of one of my favorite books. Between friends, family, co-workers, LJ, facebook, the workers at the post office and the coffee shop, and the lending library at the laundromat, I think I'd be pretty close, especially this time of year.
posted by vorfeed at 10:42 AM on December 2, 2010


It's different when you get the demo from an excited friend

Exactly. I think that's the beauty of this idea.

especially this time of year

The event will be on Sat 5th March 2011. But I think it'll fly any time of year, and maybe it's better it doesn't get caught up in the general mayhem of the holiday season. The timing seems to be because of the pre-existing World Book Day, aimed at children, which is a couple of days earlier.
posted by philipy at 10:55 AM on December 2, 2010


perfect
posted by sercan37 at 10:56 AM on December 2, 2010


I like the idea (and the choices, three Canadians, Woot!), but I am sad that public libraries were not involved at all. E-books haven't really taken off in the UK yet, it would have been interesting to see how this initiative would have been received in five or so years.
posted by saucysault at 11:01 AM on December 2, 2010


I'd love to do this, if it ever makes it to the States. Books AND giving things away, two things I like!
posted by fiercecupcake at 12:32 PM on December 2, 2010


48 copies of Stuart is probably somewhere beyond critical depression mass.
posted by scruss at 12:41 PM on December 2, 2010


I don't like to be the mean cynic and everything, but I just saw this on the Culture Show and I thought 'what a bunch of self-serving arses'. Reading is hardly a minority sport in the UK and these books are hardly unknown. I do this very thing a lot. It's called recommending and giving books to your friends. This seems like a big ego trip to me.
posted by Summer at 12:49 PM on December 2, 2010


this is better than free beer, and hardly anything is better than free beer.
posted by theora55 at 1:28 PM on December 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


This seems like a big ego trip to me.

Let us say - marketing.

But it does raise a few questions among us cynics. Like, are the authors getting paid for these, or giving up their cut, or what? (Perhaps I missed it in all the commentayr

I mean, it's heart warming and all that, but the enthusiasm of Ms Atwood and Mr Le Carre have different shades of meaning depending on whether this is a(n probably small for them) windfall of more of, as I say, marketing move.
posted by IndigoJones at 2:31 PM on December 2, 2010


Cloud Atlas for everyone!
posted by nickrussell at 2:56 PM on December 2, 2010


"So, do you want the Le Carre, a kids book or a frighteningly middle class book?"
posted by Artw at 3:28 PM on December 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Damn, no DaVinci Code. I'm out.
posted by essexjan at 3:35 PM on December 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


When I saw this on the Culture show I, at first, got genuinely excited 'yeah, I'll give away 50 Iain Banks books... no problem!'... then when it came out you had to go for one off the approved 'Booker baiters and a couple of things the plebs might like' I got terribly depressed about the whole thing. At least with the Edinburgh everyone in the city read a book thing they went for something classic but readable (Kidnapped, Jekyll & Hyde, Lost World)

Let them eat Celeb Biogs...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:44 PM on December 2, 2010


In the US, this is followed by a huge bonfire.
posted by dave78981 at 3:50 PM on December 2, 2010


In the UK I suspect it is followed by charity shops refusing to take Love in the Time of Cholera.
posted by Artw at 4:27 PM on December 2, 2010


And by the used prices on Amazon Marketplace dropping to 1p + postage.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 6:41 PM on December 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think that this is great, and I'm definitely going to apply.

I've given away multiple copies of things before - last year I gave about 10 DVDs of Anvil! to different friends - but 48 seems too many to me.

Is there a rule that the recipients need to be in the UK?

(The book I'd choose is Agent Zig Zag - a brilliant true account of a double agent's wartime adventures. I'd pick it because it's amazingly readable, very accessible, and really gives an idea of what the Second World War was like. But I'll work a bit harder on my reason before I complete my application).

Oh - and I'll probably end up spending about £50 in postage in giving the books away.
posted by DanCall at 5:09 AM on December 3, 2010


Is there a rule that the recipients need to be in the UK?

I haven't seen any such rule, but the idea seems to get a good geographical spread of the givers around the UK, so presumably they want to reach UK readers.

Apart from geographical spread, another important criterion for selection seems to be whether what you plan to do will mean the books are going to be reaching people and places that they otherwise normally wouldn't.

Agent Zig Zag

I'd never heard of it before, but inclusion on this list got me to take a look, and it does seems like a very good book. Something like a le Carre story that happens to be true.

I'm going to take a little bit of time over deciding what to do, including what book to go for, and ideas for giving them away. It would be great if this event could be used to bootstrap a neighborhood reading group.
posted by philipy at 10:28 AM on December 3, 2010


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