World Book Night took place for the third time in 2013, but it was the first time I participated. World Book Night is a campaign that first launched in the UK & Ireland in 2011 that simply aims to get ‘light’ readers or ‘non-readers’ to pick up a book. I thought I’d write a little post to tell you a bit about my experience of participating in World Book Night which will hopefully encourage you to apply to be a giver when applications open for WBN 2014 a little later in the year.
Why did I participate?
I’d heard about World Book Night – and promoted it on Pretty Books – in 2011, but I used to be a much shyer person than I am now. Like most bookish people, I’m still quiet, but the thought of participating in an event like this used to make me nervous. And so for the first year, I just told other people about it. I decided to go for it in 2012, but unfortunately did not get one of my top three book choices, and so this year was really my first chance to get stuck in. I used to get the tube to work and saw people reading daily, whether that’d be newspapers, paperbacks, or on their Kindle, but then I started getting the bus – and now I rarely see someone with a book. I’m more likely to see people on their phone or not doing anything at all, so I thought it’d be a great idea to leave copies of my book on buses and at bus stops for people to pick up and hopefully read on their way to/from work or school.
What book did I pick?
Amusingly, like many of the other book bloggers I follow, I picked between the only two young adult novels on the list: The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness and Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman. I think both novels are excellent examples of how diverse, exciting and intelligent young adult fiction can be, but I picked The Knife of Never Letting Go because it is a favourite of mine, and even though the dystopian genre is saturated, there is still nothing else like the Chaos Walking trilogy.
What was my experience?
I started giving away my books a little early, on 22nd April, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to carry that many around with me. I left most of them at bus stops, and on the top and lower decks of buses – either left on the seat or stuck down near the window – but there were two experiences in particular that I enjoyed:
I left my first book at a bus stop, but I’m not a very stealthy person, so I got caught! A lady called over, ‘You left your book!’. I told her I was leaving it there and she asked me whether it was a good book and if she could have it. I, of course, said yes and so she ran over to where I’d left it. She asked me what it was about and it suddenly felt extremely difficult to summarise The Knife of Never Letting Go to a stranger in a few seconds while also trying to find my Oyster card, so I just said ‘It’s about a dystopian future!’ and hopped on the bus.
I left another at the bus stop opposite my house and ran home to watch out of the window. It actually wasn’t as exciting as I hoped because it took over half an hour for somebody to take the book. I saw two people pick it up, flick through it and then put it back down! This surprised me because London often has a negative reputation: if you leave any belongings alone, they’ll be gone within seconds. Finally, though, a man walked off with it (along with his food shopping).
After the first day, I thought I’d better make it more obvious that it was all right to take the books, so I stuck post-it notes on them saying ‘Pick me up! I am a free book! :)’. I also included The Hunger Games sampler or bookish postcards inside just for an extra fun surprise.
Why should you take part in World Book Night?
I have no way of knowing whether leaving books on buses and at bus stops ‘worked’, but I like to think that at least one person ended up really enjoying a book that they never would have normally read. There was a little criticism of World Book Night for the first two years, from people saying that giving away millions of books will not work and that it just causes bookshops to lose money. But I don’t think that way. Any publisher will tell you that giving away books is the most inexpensive yet most effective form of publicity, and World Book Night is publicity for books, bookshops, libraries and reading, as well as the individual titles. In my copy of The Knife of Never Letting Go, for example, there’s an advert at the end for the trilogy, and space at the front to note down which bookshop I picked my box of books up from. And it’s not really giving away millions of books, but twenty. But most of all, it’s really quite fun.
Visit worldbooknight.org and us.worldbooknight.org to find out more about World Book Night and how it works, and follow the campaign on Twitter @worldbooknight and @wbnamerica.