We, at Ripping Yarns Bookshop, would just like to say that we thoroughly support Nicola Morgan's idea for an 'Alternative Book Night.' Here, at Ripping Yarns, we're an antiquarian bookshop, and 90% of our stock is out-of-print books. We specialise in saving books from being lost - reuniting people with their favourite childhood stories. We work our socks off and we don't make a profit: we do it because we love it.
And for those books that have just come out, or are currently in print we redirect our customers to places such as The Big Green Bookshop and Muswell Hill's The Children's Bookshop. You cannot beat recommendations and assistance from booksellers who really love what they are doing. You don't get that from Amazon, and as Vanessa said on Twitter:
You don't want to do that kittens, surely?
I used to work at The Edinburgh Bookshop - a fantastic independent bookshop, and Nicola's Alternative World Book Night allows us to celebrate places like this: indie bookshops, and publishers, making sure that everyone gets involved.
So, the premise? This week go and buy a book that you love [preferably from a bookshop or directly from the publisher]. I also recommend Salt Publishing for this! Then, write in the front of the book 'Given in the spirit of World Book Night, but bought from [insert name of bookshop or publisher].' Then, on Saturday 5th March, go out and give this book to anyone - a stranger you meet on the street, on the bus, on the tube. Give it to a friend, give it to a library. The thought behind World Book Night comes from a good place, but we think it could have been executed in a different way. We shouldn't hide the fact that places such as Amazon, and supermarkets are giving a warped view of what a book should be worth: of all the hard work that's put in by the authors, editors, marketing people, designers, booksellers! And giving one million free books is great, a lovely idea, but it does, I feel, block the trouble that's going on in the industry. Prospero's bookshop - a wonderful indie bookshop in Crouch End - closed last month, and I hear so many local people here saying 'oh, it's such a shame; it was such a lovely bookshop.' Yes, it was - but did you buy your books from there? Did you? Or did you browse? And now The Big Green Bookshop is in trouble too.
So, use the World Book Night idea in a way that not only supports reading and publishers but also benefits your indie booksellers who work super hard to get you the books, school visits, author events that you enjoy. So, what are you waiting for? Off you go!
Jen Campbell is the author of the best-selling 'Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops' series. She's also an award-winning poet and short story writer. Her poetry collection 'The Hungry Ghost Festival' is published by The Rialto, and she lives in London, where she works at an antiquarian bookshop. Her new book, 'The Bookshop Book' is forthcoming autumn 2014.