‘Excuse me, tonight is World Book Night, when 1 million books are being given away for free around the country…’Â
So began my spiel for giving away my copies of Nigel Slater’s wonderful autobiography Toast, as part of the inaugural World Book Night. Â
You would have thought that giving away free copies of a book would be really easy, wouldn’t you? Well, it wasn’t quite as simple as I’d expected.
I went to my nearby Tesco Express/petrol station. Not the most natural of places, but that’s the point. I wanted to give the books away to complete strangers and try and engage with people who wouldn’t necessarily walk into their local Waterstones. Â Â
The reactions I got were very mixed. For some people, the act of being handed a free book resulted in a beatific smile, which naturally made me feel happy. Â Â
Others completely (and studiously) ignored me, while some looked as if I was holding a stick of dynamite when I proffered one of the copies. Â Â
I dispensed 30 copies this afternoon (the remainder have another destination) and it took at least 45 minutes to give them away, which I thought was a long time. You may think differently. Â
My 7yo daughter found it hilarious and mildly impressive that I was walking up to complete strangers and talking to them – actually I think her presence made me look less of a weirdo than if I’d been in my own.Â
So what were my overall impressions?Â
1) Unfortunately people are naturally suspicious of anyone offering to give them something for free.Â
2) The DE socio-economic class are far more likely to ignore you and look at a book with distaste.Â
3) On the bright side, I got a lot of smiles once I explained what I was doing (and that I wasn’t selling anything)
4) It was great fun and I really think that I’ll have spread the ‘reading’ love to lots of people.Â
Congratulations to Canongate’s Jamie Byng and all the other publishers who set this up, all the other 19,999 book givers and everyone who took one of the free books and whose world may be changed in some small way, after reading it.
To find out more about World Book Night, visit their website www.worldbooknight.org