Several of the UK and Ireland’s largest publishers will be giving away 1 million free books to members of the public this Saturday in what is being described as “the most ambitious and far-reaching celebration of adult books and reading ever attempted.”
World Book Night, the UK charity, responsible for the event is turning to social media to promote the more traditional print media. Since December 2010 the World Book Night charity has been recruiting 20,000 volunteers through their website, Twitter and Facebook pages to act as a crowdsourced army of book hawkers. These volunteers will give out free editions to their friends, family and complete strangers on the night itself. The event will take place two days after the larger World Book Day on March 3.
Each volunteer will give away a selection of 25 books from different authors and genres, from Erich Maria Remarque’s “All Quiet on the Western Front” to the more recent “Cloud Atlas” by David Mitchell (no, not that David Mitchell).
The night will be a transmedia affair with the state broadcasters BBC and RTÉ joining with the Publishers Association, the Booksellers Association, the Independent Publishers Guild, the Reading Agency with libraries and World Book Day. Graham Norton will host a television broadcast with the charity’s patrons John Le Carré, Rupert Everett, Alan Bennett and Nick Cave.
But with Borders having filed for bankruptcy and Waterstones shutting dozens on high street shops times are hard for the book trade, so can giving away free books really promote a renewed audience for books?