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Who wants to give away a million books?

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Will Gompertz | 09:27 UK time, Thursday, 2 December 2010

Never read All Quiet on the Western Front? Or risked buying a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel - say, Love in the Time of Cholera - in case it disappointed?

The books include The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, which features George Smiley

The books include The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, which features George Smiley

Ever thought what would happen if Britain's leading publishers decided to give away a million books in one day - including David Nicholls' One Day?

You'll get the answer to the last question on Saturday 5 March 2011, otherwise known as World Book Night, when a promotion will take place that will make a supermarket two-for-one on a packet of bourbons seem very unadventurous.

A million books, from a carefully selected list of 25 titles, will be handed out by members of the public to members of the public. That's the denouement, but the fun starts today.

Here's how it works: 40,000 copies will be printed of each of the titles (which also include Yann Martel's Life of Pi and Nigel Slater's memoir Toast). As from today, you can go to the World Book Night website, choose one of the titles and apply to give away 48 copies to whom you so wish.

You are asked to submit 100 words explaining your interest in that particular book and those you choose are asked to pass it on once they've read it. In case there is a rush on particular titles, you are invited to offer a second preference.

Applications will then be sent to the relevant publishers, who will whittle down the list to a final 800 (800 people x 25 titles x 48 copies = 960,000 books) primarily aimed at getting a fair geographical spread. The remaining 40,000 books will be handed out by the organisers to those they feel have restricted access to literature.

The criterion for selection onto the shortlist is a little haphazard. The judging panel, which includes publishers, agents, booksellers, writers and broadcasters, was told that the majority of writers had to be from the UK or Ireland and to be alive. There was then some wiggle-room to include "wild cards", which appear to be criteria-free, barring the desire that the selected book should still be in copyright.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is also on the list

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is also on the list

The reason for this stipulation is that the event is not a purely altruistic act by the publishing industry; it is a promotion. The objective is to increase the market of those who buy and read books. The event could of course be done with Hardy or Dickens, but no publisher owns the copyright to their works, so the firms would not redeem the benefits should you become a fan after sampling their wares.

If the author is still in copyright - better still, alive and productive - the publishers' hope will be an enlarged fan base for their writer-cum-brand. So they don't want the market stimulation to stop with each book being given to just one person; they want to encourage the sated reader to hand it on to someone else with their recommendation.

The sheer scale of the project makes it intriguing: 1,000,000 books with a retail value of £8,390,000 given away in one night. Add to that the mass participation of the public and the ambition to roll the idea out across the rest of the world over the coming years and it starts to look epic.

The initiative has not been universally welcomed. Some booksellers are aghast that the big publishers are giving away the very product they are struggling to sell. And I understand it took some time to persuade at least one of the authors to agree to take part.

But if all goes to the organisers' plan, it could be a concept that works for all parties. The BBC has given its support to World Book Night and will be producing a range of programming and content to coincide with the event in March.


  • Comment number 1.

    Too late, I've got a Kindle! As Amazon have discovered, people actually prefer electronic books even if they cost almost as much as the printed variety. Looking at the boxes of old paperbacks in my junk room, it's not hard to see why.

  • Comment number 2.

    Fantastic idea. I'll scuttle round and put in a bid forthwith, with the intent of distribution around the local hospital... 3 years ago I had to spend a week there after a stroke and the main problem was the crashing boredom - I read the entire His Dark Materials trilogy and a stack of other books besides. Any spares go to local students, with computing and science ones getting priority.

  • Comment number 3.

    At 10:31am on 02 Dec 2010, SR4Z wrote: "people actually prefer electronic books"

    - never never never - kindle is soulless! I look at my piles of paperbacks with sheers joy - every scuffed cover and creased page, every coffee splash cracked spine. I love them!

  • Comment number 4.

    The headline on the BBC site is "Who would you give a million free books to?"

    I prefer "Whom would ....".

  • Comment number 5.

    Giving away a million books is a wonderful thing, but nothing new. The Tibetan Lama Tarthang Tulku has regularly given away up to a million books of Tibetan and other Buddhist texts as part of his Yeshe De project to perpetuate books which otherwise might have been lost after the Chinese occupation of Tibet and to bring a wide range of texts to refugees, monks and otherse who would otherwise be unable to afford them.

  • Comment number 6.

    ... delighted to find that Northern Lights is one of the books on offer, so I've put in my bid to share that.

    Second choice is The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, because my Mum went to school with Muriel Sparks in Edinburgh! She said the school in the book was quite reminiscent of James Gillespie's... although she couldn't pick out any of her friends amongst the characters.

  • Comment number 7.

    I could apply and give the Million Books to My Mother:

    She is an avid reader and reads just about anything and always has done.

    She even reads the cornflakes box at breakfast.

  • Comment number 8.

    "Whom would ..." ???

    Surely: "To whom would ..." If we are going to be pedantic, let's at least get it right.

  • Comment number 9.

    Hey digbones, I agree, the reason I haven't thrown out my old paperbacks is because I have happy memories of them and/or might want to read them again! Lots of people still have vinyl LPs they are fond of, but they won't be buying any more. It's just too much baggage.

    If the publishers want to boost sales they need to target the iPod generation and electronic is the only way to go. Why not make all 25 titles free for download for one week only? That would really make a splash.

  • Comment number 10.

    I wonder what this is really about? Is it just to rekindle the spirit of reading, lost to generations that prefer the computer or xbox or is it just about flagging book sales. Publishers would do better to look at how they could accept a wider range of material and sell it at more affordable prices! I also can not see how giving away all these books is going to help the independant high street book shops.

  • Comment number 11.

    At 11:07am on 02 Dec 2010, Roger Perry wrote:
    The headline on the BBC site is "Who would you give a million free books to?"

    I prefer "Whom would ....".

    Should that not be "To whom would you give a million free books?"?

  • Comment number 12.

    Why not give these books to public libraries and then even more people will have a chance to read them.
    Everyone has access to literature for FREE through their local library. The more people who use the public libraries the less likely it is that services will be cut.

  • Comment number 13.

    There are a lot of ordinary people already giving their books away for free, with the added incentive of maybe getting feedback from the readers after them, wherever they are in the world. These people are called BookCrossers. See

  • Comment number 14.

    Most people prefer books, I would suggest to SR4Z. However, I do accept that there is a current problem with the quality of them as objects. Too many publishers are using very poor quality paper, and terrible quality print. And don't even get me on the subject of those 'print on demand' books - they are awful. Bindings and spines are dreadful, too. A good quality book sits beautifully in the hand, but that requires a good spine, a quality binding, and weighty paper. And they look beautiful, too - but that requires good paper and print. Just as, for the last few years of mass-produced vinyl, LPs got thinner and thinner, going all bendy and feeling like little more than a feather in your hand, with all of the resultant poor sound quality that caused, so too many publishers seem to want people to hate books.

    So, my reservation is this. These free giveaways are guaranteed to be rubbish books - not in content, but in their feel and in the experience they offer. They'll still be better than a kindle, mind! But the problem is, how many people who receive one of these will say "what is all the fuss about?"

    oh, and @ Roger Perry: I prefer To whom...

  • Comment number 15.

    The picture above the "The spy who came in from the cold" caption is a scene from the end of "Smiley's People". Why not a picture of Richard Burton in the role of Leamas in the film of the book?

  • Comment number 16.

    How odd that just as thriving libraries are being closed down, they do this. Using your local library doesn't mean it will stay open. Gloucester are about to close the third busiest in the county. Services are being cut to the bone. Pity us on low incomes and limited mobility, but literate. (I'm a carer, and my leisure activity - reading is not going to be an option for much longer)

    Giving away these books is a great idea, and in the end might be the only way we'll actually be able to access some affordable reading...

  • Comment number 17.

    I think it is a great idea. We sometimes need a kickstart to get us into the habit of reading on a regular basis again, (and it often happens when you come accross a book you really enjoy). However, I think another deterrent from reading even more books nowadays, is the fact that books are expensive. Not that I don't acknowledge the costs involved in publishing and distributing a book, or that I don't credit the author with what is rightly due for his work. However, how many times do you end up with books that you start and disenchanted, leave to the side.

    That is why consumers, I think, become very careful before spending substantial amounts of cash on books and CDs. That is also perhaps why sites like Amazon do so well. They offer competitive prizes, the added bonus of free delivery, but most of all, you can browse through thousands of books at your own convenience, and therefore see if the tittle delivers to your expectations. Frankly, I think making the contents more available to consumers, or further exploiting that avenue, is part of the key to encouraging higher sales in books.

  • Comment number 18.

    #14 - fatbadger, it's not just my opinion that electronic books are more popular. Amazon recently reported that Kindle edition sales figures now exceed those for *all* their paper books. I was quite amazed when I read that. Meanwhile, Barnes & Noble (one of the biggest book retailers in the US) are making a loss and they are trying to catch up with their own e-reader.

    The market is changing incredibly quickly and publishers who ignore that will go the way of the music business.

  • Comment number 19.

    Let me declare an interest as I am a independent bookseller. This initiative seems designed by publishers to cut booksellers, large and small, out of the loop. If the idea is to support the book trade, I am mystified as to how giving away 1 million books helps any of us. If the books were to be given away through libraries or bookshops it would at least encourage people in through our doors. What signal does giving away over £8 million send? That the book trade is rolling in it? Books are worth nothing?
    Publishing is a business and so is bookselling. We are in the midst of a brutal recession and being stabbed in the back by publishers and authors certainly isn't helping.

    I don't see the gaming business giving away millions of pounds worth of games. The only comparison would be the music business, and look what has happened to that. the product we are all trying to sell, in the depths of a recesssion, is given away on such a vast scale, how are we to sell

  • Comment number 20.

    I'll have them. Kindle, please!!! Maybe alright for holidays. But give me a book anyday.

  • Comment number 21.

    denouement...What a great word...I wish I had that last week when I was asked to give a speech. Could have used that in my final paragraph.

  • Comment number 22.

    a very poor idea since we are closing libraries and this money could be given to them or at least give the books to libraries instead, its only a marketing exercise not about sustaining long-term readers

  • Comment number 23.

    At Borderline Books we give free books away all the time - to organisations working with homeless people and refugees, women and children in refuges and others with limited access to books - including such organisations as Crisis.
    What disappoints me here is that publishers are now going to print books specially for this campaign, whereas when we ask them to donate to us instead of pulping they look at us as if we are stupid.
    We try to encourage people to start local Borderline Books projects so that books are always available to those needing them, not just once in a blue moon.

  • Comment number 24.

    The more people who read, the better but electronic is the way it's going.

    I'm sure all those people who are loathe to give up their paperbacks are the same sort of people who looked at the paperback with horror, avowing they would never stoop so low as to buy a paperback when hard bound copies were still available. And imagine how the gentry felt when introduced to the concept of a printing press?

  • Comment number 25.

    Why on earth doesn't this article provide a link to the website in question?

  • Comment number 26.

    A kindle! Give me a break, there's nothing quite as good as the real thing, a book can be passed around, treasured and loved, I still have books my father had as a child. You can't do that with a kindle and come the day, it'll need updating/upgrading - nope, you can keep it.

    I've recently started to download music - I have a very large record collection (5000+ vinyl) also cassettes and cd's but downloads I am quickly beginning to feel, are soulless - I would never be impressed by someones download collection, something they can get without the pleasure of the hunt or the chase.

    I'll have a book anyday.

  • Comment number 27.

    Oh dear, BBC. The picture you've chosen to illustrate this is *not* from 'The Spy who came in from the Cold', which in turn did *not* feature George Smiley (other than in a tiny cameo right at the end). The picture is from the BBC adaptation of 'Smiley's People'. Shoddy workmanship.

  • Comment number 28.

    Is World Book Night website
    by any chance

    how about PRINT the damm link idiots

  • Comment number 29.

    In reply to comment #4 - is should be "To whom would you give these books"

  • Comment number 30.

    I'm enjoying the hypocrisy of this. For decades the standard argument put forward by those who advocate copyright infringement, whether of music, software, or books, is that they are promoting the work of the artist in question and this in turn stimulates and generates additional commercial sales. There's a fair amount of evidence in both the music and e-book industry that this is true, and despite publishers' continued rejection of this argument, here they are advocating a similar promotional approach.

    I certainly have on many occasions paid full price to buy-into an author's back catalogue having read one of their books borrowed from a friend or from the library for free, so it's a sound promotional technique.

  • Comment number 31.

    @18 - SR4Z: but you are not comparing like-for-like. Kindle book sales (100% of the world wide sales of which are on Amazon) outsell proper books (only a small percentage of the world wide sales of which are on Amazon) on Amazon. That does not mean that electronic books are more popular than printed books.

    It might well be that that will change in the future - indeed, presumably it will - but we can still decry that. I would wish more people could appreciate quality, but in an mp3 world that doesn't appear to be the case. Electronic readers add absolutely nothing to the reading experience (can you think of anything they add?), while taking quite a lot away from it. Many will stick with the fuller experience, just as many have stuck with vinyl.

  • Comment number 32.

    In truth, very few have stuck with vinyl, so it's not the strongest of arguments. And for me, the 'reading experience' is all contained within the artistry of the writing, and when I'm reading I'm not even aware of the format - I'm lost in another world.

    I love books, and the feel of a book, but having experienced the incredible convenience of having a ebook in my pocket wherever I am (on my phone - the Kindle is just too big!) it's now my preferred method for experiencing that artistry when I need to.

    Not to mention that the same device also serves me my daily news, all my social arrangements and email, sorts my train times, shows me how to get places, entertains me while I get there with games or tv or films or studying or shopping, and can keep me enveloped in my favourite music all the time it's doing that.

    Interestingly, the Kindle is just a more convenient book, which is why it will always remain a niche product. Smartphones are the future.

  • Comment number 33.

    Was going to comment on the picture of Smiley, presumably a) they had it handy and b) hadn't read the book.

    However, other issues: a kindle is a powered device, so it represents a continual cost, however small. Someone suggested that it will need upgrading or replacing - will this be backward-compatible? It's also much more stealable than a book, for those advocating taking it on holiday, and represents another item you need to recharge (along with phone, camera,MP3 player).
    Finally the actual choice of books is rather disappointing. Alright, I wasn't expecting all classics, and All quiet is very welcome, but autobiographies? I'd much rather read Bennett's work than about him, and surely he'd rather I did as well. Spy who came in is a poor choice, something more recent would work better at getting new readers, The Constant Gardener perhaps? Three books that very much need to be on this list though are Brave New World, 1984 and Fahrenheit 451(especially the latter two).

  • Comment number 34.

    it seems the content of the article has been lost in translation for some only commenting on grammer. So a book compared to a kindle? first and foremost it doesnt matter if i drop a book in the bath where a large proportion of my reading is done. less likely to get nicked, easier to take with me and to lend someone but mainly, the smell feel and enjoyment of a book is second to none. free downloads is a great idea too though. i think just the action of handing out a free book could kick start people reading again however that comes or why it comes which can only be a good thing. imagination needs to be encourgaged more these days and watching tv or computer games does not encourage that at all. How i am supposed to pick one title is beyond me though! signing up now

  • Comment number 35.

    #31 - fatbadger, good discussion for a cold stuck-in-the-house day! I think we can at least agree that e-books are where the growth is in the industry.

    Given the choice between reading a paper book and an e-reader, I still slightly prefer the paper book for ease of navigation and familiarity. The e-reader is superior for being able to change font size especially if you sometimes use reading glasses. For me, the value of the book is in what is written, not what it is written on. If it is well-written I can honestly say I soon forget whether am looking at paper or "e-ink".

    However, the real choice is not book v. e-reader, it is between having hundreds of physical books versus a single e-reader. Space and money come into it. Project Gutenberg has over 33,000 free out-of-copyright books including many of the classics. Even if you only like a few of them, the e-reader pays for itself quickly.

    I don't think we should take the music analogy too far. If you accept the screen quality (and it's pretty good now), any e-reader is capable of perfect reproduction of the source material. Sadly the same cannot be said of most music systems.

  • Comment number 36.

    Dear Kindle,

    You don't have to recharge a book...

  • Comment number 37.

    Publicity ploy it may be, but it works for me. Having read some of the books on the list, I want to read some of the others, but I cannot wait until March in the hope that someone will give me a free one. I will be acquiring books - Kindle, bookshop, Amazon, library, charity shop - all the same to me. I will be there, finding ones I enjoy and reading others by the same authors. Like the Richard and Judy list, publicity works!

    I pass my read books on, through Amazon or charity shops. I would like to know whether Borderline Books would like our excellent condition /read novels, if publishers are too mean to pass their old ones on. Recycling at its most enjoyable!

  • Comment number 38.

    Sorry about the mess in the final paragraph of my comment.

    My point was supposed to be that giving away millions of pounds worth of the product that is the lifeblood of our business isn't a shrewd idea. It will only contribute to the cheapening of books, and further damage the future of the trade.

  • Comment number 39.

    SR4Z: In the UK, tabloid scandal sheets sell more than serious newspapers. It doesn't make them better than the latter. Millions of people think that sliced factory bread is good bread – it doesn't make it so.

    I am one of those people who uses an iPhone, an iPod and goodness knows what else. But nothing, to me, will replace the pleasure of holding an actual book (and an electronic reader would be rubbish at bathtime too).

    Books, to many, many people, remain in themselves things of real pleasure.

  • Comment number 40.

    #39. Sybarite wrote:

    "But nothing, to me, will replace the pleasure of holding an actual book (and an electronic reader would be rubbish at bathtime too"

    You should try a flat-screen (waterproof) display hanging from the ceiling of the bathroom with a waterproof keyboard/trackball. Browse the web or watch TV or a DVD in the bath.

  • Comment number 41.

    What a fantastic idea - I love books! And I've applied to become a book giver. It's great to try to get people to read interesting books - and they don't have to spend a penny!

  • Comment number 42.


  • Comment number 43.

    There is absolutely nothing like a good book... all power to the Project. But there are so may others that escape the general public. Smaller, un-heralded but infinitely more enticing works are out there, despite them being many years old and probably out of print.

    Many people give their once-read (Cookson) purchases to a Charity shop... and I've got those DVD's with WARNINGS - that I'm supposed to be stuck with it for ever and never show it to anyone else.

    One I will NEVER give away is "Smiley's People" (see Pic in the article... mentioned as the Spy who came in from the Cold) I watch it, along with Tinker Tailor... privately... numerous times... for my own enjoyment... and alone... to evade prosecution. :-)

  • Comment number 44.

    please read a book by paulo coehlo please!

  • Comment number 45.

    Great idear even if its an old one. Having read others veiws it seems that the nothing in life is free thought comes through. Some others blogs are so negative ++++ the opinion being electronic books are the future well the C5 had its day too. But it does'nt cost a penny to teach someone to read and if being able to give someone a book once you have taught them to read and it being free well thats even better the first person I would give a free book is the woman whom taught me 39 years ago my infant teacher Mrs Cotter whom gave me the most priceless gift ever the gift of being able to read. I'm a beekeeper and pass on all my magazines it would be great if this idear of passing on free books gathered pace with books on beekeeping, cooking,growing you're own veg the list is endless lets start a roller coaster power to the people.

  • Comment number 46.

    I think it's quite safe to say that I am of the iPod Generation. I have an iPhone with more apps than I could ever possibly use. I also spend, quite possibly, too much time on my PS3 but I spend an even longer time reading. I do have an app on my phone which allows me to download books from a (not very good) selection and I found it to be irritating. It felt as if I was continuously scrolling as the size of the screen simply could not hold enough words. If a book is good and I'm enjoying it then I don't think the format matters or detracts from my enjoyment. I just love the familiarity of reading a book. I always feel a little uncomfortable reading a book on my phone or on an e-Reader. It's a lot more compact but I like that additional weight in my bag because I choose to lug a book around. There's nothing wrong with an e-Reader. I don't see how it can be soul-less or 'not as good'. I just prefer to hold books! It feels right. :)

    I'm not sure what book to put my name down for. Spoilt for choice!

  • Comment number 47.


    Whilst I agree that electronic media readers are space saving and high tec as a for technophile who has had to learn to do without technology from time to time, there is still room enough for conventional books as well.
    I have recycled books, VHS cassettes, audio cassettes, CDs and DVDs through our local Hospice Charity.
    This not only gives those who cannot afford new technology the chance to be entertained but also makes a few bob for the Hospice.
    Nevertheless, I still get pleasure from buying books to read on the right occasion.
    Having seen your blogs I realise that your priority is a matter of saving space and one day I am sure that digital information pads will be a reliable and cheap source of information, available to everybody.
    In the meantime I find that I am more in agreement with the majority of bloggers who agree that it is important for people to be able to read in the first instance.
    It is incredible in this techno world that we live in that people still find themselves disadvantaged in this way.
    If the million books can be used and reused then maybe up to ten million people may benefit from them.

  • Comment number 48.

    Books are urgently needed by schoolchildren in the Philippines, if you are going to give away a million books they must be educational the children in the Philippines need Libraries also, as do we, our Libraries here need to be run by volunteers and not
    Local Government who cannot do anything right.

  • Comment number 49.

    I am writing from an island in the Gulf of Mexico. It is off the coast of Texas in America. I lost all my books in Hurricane Ike. I thank the sponsors for this opportunity. 75% of our island was under water. Can you imagine that? My friends know not to call while BBC is on. I won't answer. I watch all the shows you produce over the pond. East Enders, MI5, New Tricks, etc. Like the new Sherlock Holmes, but loveddddddddd the previous.. Congrats on the upcoming Royal Wedding. I love the musicians you have. Great storytellers. Hope to visit your country someday. Well, time for a spot of tea. No coffee drinker here. Star warm.

  • Comment number 50.

    I think the initiative is patronising. I'll read what I want to read, thank you very much. On the list, most people who want to read the books will have read them already. If I get one, I'm donating it to my local library.
    Why not give a bunch of thrillers or romances or whodunnits? The publishers of those do regular giveaways with not half as much fanfare.
    Kindle - I have one, I love it. You really need hands-on to appreciate what it can do. I also have shelves and shelves full of paperbacks. And boxes of them to get rid of, if anyone wants them. I probably have a few hundred to give away. Can I haz my publicity now pls?
    Kindles and other e-readers add choice, they give you access to hundreds of free books, they make it possible to put the books that you really love on your physical shelves and get rid of the deteriorating, smelly, brittle, badly manufactured paperbacks that you'll probably never read again. And it means that you can decide how you're going to read your book.
    Me, I miss the old stone tablets. No backwards compatability with those! Oh, except the languages they were written in, of course. And natural wear and tear.

  • Comment number 51.

    Try taking a long hot bath with a good book on your kindle.

  • Comment number 52.

    I have read "All Quiet...". I thought it was a worthwhile thing to read, but I wouldn't necessarily recommend it for the 21st Century generations who have no memory of massive war and no desire to experience it. It is a book whose story was well told and important, but which is no longer relevant. I am not even sure it speaks to the experiences of today's soldiers. Wars today may be just as deadly to the individual - once per customer - but the massed battles of the Western Front are something I very much hope no one ever encounters again. For today's impressionable youth, I would be more likely to recommend "Blood Diamond", the movie. Similar message, more relevant to our current culture and current smaller conflicts.
    I own many books, both hardback and paperback, and I have downloaded everything on Project Gutenburg's free DVD's, but I would neither be interested in reading, nor would I wish to give, any of the 25 books selected.
    I would very much enjoy giving people free books, even some free books written by UK/Irish writers who are still alive and which are still in copyright, and my selection would - in my opinion - include works of "lasting quality", but not one of them would be the sort of pretentious, pompous pap that wins the Nobel Prize for Literature, unlike WBN's bunch.
    I am not surprised that no "Harry Potter" made the cut. I doubt anything that popular and profitable would *ever* be given away free for any reason. Publishers obviously only allowed unpopular, unprofitable, niche-market titles to be offered. Books that had printruns of a few tens of thousands in anticipation of large sales, but that would have, without WBN, been remaindered.
    Not a surprise. The book industry is as generous and altruistic as the music industry. Same model, just older.
    WBN is a cheap and rather tacky promotion of books almost no one would want to read were they not free.
    Nothing new there.
    To @48, "ernestrothery": Please tell everyone how to send books to the Philippines. I am sure we could all spare a couple, and if every one of us sent a dozen...
    To @49, "islandchild": has free books. Thousands of them are *wonderful*. It even has books that are not in English. And spoken books.
    On the subject of e-readers: I like my notebook, on which I have mirrored everything I can grab from Project Gutenberg, and a few other sources. It is a good way of keeping awake and alert on night shifts. I would never buy an electronic copy of a book for three reasons:
    I loath the very concept of DRM. The idea behind that is that I am a thief and a criminal, not a customer. That is insulting, even were it true.
    I won't pay more for an e-copy than High Street shops are charging for the recently-published hardback. Most certainly not when I can loan the hardback to a friend, but I can't even copy the e-book to some of my own machines due to DRM restrictions. I see no reason why half-a-dollar, or fifty pee, should not be considered a premium price for an e-copy. Were authors to put copies of their works on a shared server, with a marketing service, they could eliminate the middle-men, the publishers, and *all* of the download price would go directly to the creators of the works - something RIAA and their lawyers say they want to encourage. Sure, any author using the service would need to pay a little towards the hardware, and the one support programmer needed to run it, but that need not be very much per writer.
    Lastly, I am waiting for the "one-to-one swap" offer. I am waiting for some e-reseller to offer a completely free e-copy of every book I currently own should I donate the hardback or paperback copy to a charity. I know that will only happen once, as a special offer just before a major hardcopy publisher goes out of business and tries everything to keep afloat, but it would give me a reason to buy something I otherwise could never justify.
    WBN, World Book Night, is not going to encourage me to buy any of those books. It might encourage me to sign-up, pick the least offensive of them and donate copies just to ensure the maximum cost to the publishers, but I won't be buying any more books after it or due to it.
    I have nothing against free books. I have given dozens of people, possibly hundreds, free books once I have read them. I just don't think *these* books are particularly interesting.
    And I doubt if more than one copy in a thousand will ever be read.
    WBN just picked the wrong books.
    Had they picked a "Harry Potter" book, most would have been read. Even *I* might have read a free copy of one of those. Maybe. Once I'd finished the free ones online at Gutenberg.
    >:> FtC.

  • Comment number 53.

    I would give books to anyone in an area affected by disaster: flooding or earthquakes. I remember an American writer, It was Toni Morrison or Alice Walker, who reacted to Hurricane Katrina by packing a suitcase full of books.
    Novels give us a space of our own and people who are bereaved can find solace in that space sometimes. Even if the escape is short, if it is a good book to read before bedtime, then it changes your dreams.

  • Comment number 54.

    @SR4Z - I am afraid so. I have already downloaded enough free ebooks in my kindle that's an entire year's worth of reading (even less) and also the amount of space that a pile of hardbounds and paperbacks occupies in my house - the free paperback might just end up in some dark corner and might not get the attention it deserves. I would appreciate it if World Book Night should also come up with a similar activity geared towards ebooks.

    Say, givers will be given access to a download link complete with password for certain book titles. The givers account can only be downloaded 48 times then the link closes down. Recipients will be encouraged to write a book review in the World Book Night website and also the site will provide links to online distributors where people can buy the ebook.

    After all, the goal here is to rekindle general public's love of reading and promote the purchase of book titles - regardless of what format it is.

  • Comment number 55.

    The latter comment is evidently resultant of Winter-Delusion.

  • Comment number 56.

    We are an environmental charity called Healthy Planet and one of our initiatives is redistributing 'Books For Free', we have prevented nearly 15 tonnes of second hand books in the last 6 months from ending up as landfill - we redistribute them via empty shops. Giving away a million books will add to the landfill problems in the UK, so providing the books are redistributed and not sent to landfill this is a great promotional initiative for publishers.

  • Comment number 57.

    I'm not sure about your maths; 800 people would have to give out 1200 books each - 48 of each of the 25 titles.


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