Thursday, March 10, 2011

World Book Night

Saturday night - and we had NO IDEA what to expect for our contribution to the inspirational book event / crazed social experiment that was World Book Night. Our shop is small, and our in-shop events are usually limited to thirty guests, so one might think it slightly reckless to issue an open invitation, free wine, and - more importantly - FREE BOOKS to our entire mailing list, now numbering more than a thousand local booklovers. Luckily a) we had billed it as a drop-in event over a two-hour period, and b) not everyone showed up.

Still, it did get a bit cosy at one point, but...as our customers tend to be extremely nice, friendly people our guests moved around to ensure that everyone had access to the wine and the books.
We were brilliantly supported by members of the local Abingdon Writers Group, including an extremely talented young writer, Jo, who had been to the Trafalgar Square event the night before. She has written up her World Book Night experiences here, and been far nicer (and slightly more objective) of our modest event than I could ever be.

As Jo mentions, on the evening we cajoled guests into writing their own favourite books - and guilty pleasures - on our World Book Night Board, which is now on display in the shop:

It must also be said that - for us - Saturday was manic for the whole day, but just why was this? World Book Night of course has not been uncontroversial, with plenty of booksellers, authors and publishers critical at a time when many in the industry are under the cosh from the recession, supermarkets, Amazon, eBooks and other economic and technological factors. An alternative World Book Night plan was mooted (and author Nicola Morgan deserves to become the patron saint of independent booksellers as a result).

My own feeling is that a combination of World Book Day vouchers, World Book Night, Alternative World Book Night, and simply some brighter weather on the high street all combined to form a perfect storm of awareness, enthusiasm and passion about books that brought people into bookshops and wanting to part of something special. Slightly cynically, perhaps the fact that World Book Night *was* controversial delivered the amount of press coverage it needed to gain critical mass. Who knows.

Whether this is just a temporary blip or the start of a resurgence in book sales, only time will tell. But I feel that World Book Night - in terms of an audacious concept - has delivered the goods. It will be difficult to do the same next year, but here's a thought: 50,000 copies of "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" were given out, kick-starting the Stieg Larsson phenomenon. Imagine next year using the night as a springboard to launch the writing careers of 25 *new* British authors onto the national, and then international stage?

Now that might have some solid economic reasons behind it.

One thing's for sure: at our World Book Night Party, in amongst the wine and free books, we still sold a lot of books.

A huge, huge thank you for everyone who attended...

4 comments:

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  2. I was a giver. I live in Sleaford in Lincolnshire and our local bookstore didn't bother to do anything, even though I'd asked if they would and there were 21 locqal givers. Their loss, I think.

    I used to live in Abingdon (used to work in your rival's store...I wanted it to be what your store is)

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  3. Thanks for the nice comment Ralph - I think there was a lot of mistrust amongst booksellers (and we're a paranoid bunch at the best of times, not helped by current hard times on the high street).

    I think the booksellers that did get involved had a positive experience, but you had to embrace it for what it was - a big marketing opportunity for placing your bookshop at the heart of the community.

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  4. Any chance you could open a branch here? :o)

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