World Book Night – 5 March 2011
Tonight is World Book Night, a spin-off of the children’s World Book Day (which was on Thursday). On their website, they say “World Book Night represents the most ambitious and far-reaching celebration of adult books and reading ever attempted in the UK and Ireland.” An undoubtedly bold claim, but then again they have given away a million books to the public.
When I say ‘they’, I mean ‘we’. I’m one of the thousands of people who applied to be a giver having read a blog by BBC arts editor Will Gompertz about the scheme.
“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.”
— Will Gompertz, BBC arts editor, blog post, 2 December 2010
I was successful in my application to be a ‘giver’ (I chose Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front), and on Wednesday I collected my box of books from the Quench bookshop in Maidenhead. Since then, my goal has been to distribute them, including taking a stack of them into school and giving them to everyone who wanted one – my best mate and the headteacher were just two of the people all too happy to take a copy off me, for free.
My efforts weren’t quite so well received this morning in town, where I took to the High Street to educate the good people of Maidenhead. You can see how I got on in the YouTube video embedded below, or click here (HD link) to watch on YouTube itself.
The whole organisation of this first World Book Night didn’t go swimmingly either. They accidentally published the home contact details (address, email, and phone number) of one of the project overseers, forgot to gain the consent of the bookshops offered as collection points before shipping the large boxes to them, and only emailed the unique tracking codes for each book to the ‘givers’ on Thursday night. Having said that, so far as I understand the entire thing has been organised by volunteers, so these teething problems will hopefully not prevent it returning in future years.
Yesterday, standing in a corridor somewhere within the confines of the school, I was getting out a book out for a teacher. A gum-chewing, neck-tie-less lad in my year swept past me and snatched the copy right out of my hand. A shame, I thought, as the book would now go to waste, perhaps set alight with his inevitable lighter. But no. Embarrassingly, I had been too quick in my prejudgement, and when the same student arrived ten minutes late for a subsequent lesson, I was pleasantly surprised to see him holding his All Quiet on the Western Front with a bookmark on page six. If that is what this organisation can do, long may it continue.