Wednesday 23 April 2014

Giving away books?

There’s a lot of talk at the moment because of World Book Night about giving away books. It would surely be, you might think, the last thing a publisher would want to do. Each unit has its manufacturing cost and other pro rata costs – warehousing, delivery, discounts to wholesalers and retailers, editorial services, design service and of course royalties. And yes, even e-books attract many of those costs. Okay, there’s no print, shipping or warehousing costs but all those techie skills cost something and the bulk of the other skills remain. So yes, we treat the words “free” and “give away” with some suspicion.
However, it isn’t all that simple, really. 

Review copies  
Traditionally we always give a few of those away free. There’s no guarantee that they will lead to sales and there is not way of tracking this reliably but they never do any harm – not even the bad ones!

Cheap-almost-free books for learners
In a former existence I was a private tutor who helped young people struggling with reading. I used to buy books from a certain publisher that disturbs both publishers and writers by repackaging books and selling them very cheaply. I defend this on two levels:
·         The parents would never have afforded the books at full price
·         The young people developed a love of reading and went on to buy books from mainstream sellers and mainstream publishers.

Second-hand bookshops
Publishers and writers both sigh. Oxfam is one of the biggest bookshops in the UK. We shouldn’t mind because this is a charity. Personally I’d rather pay a fair price for the book, one that I know will benefit both writer and publisher, and make a donation to the charity. Then you’d expect me to say that.
I do have to remember also that I bought from a second-hand book shop the first book I ever read by an author who went on to become a favourite. Thereafter I would buy her books as soon as they were out in hardback.
And better, actually, that people read than don’t read, if they really cannot afford to do it the proper way.

This is a charity that accepts donations of books. However, do look carefully at how they accept books. Donations have to be useful to them and made in an organised way. If you care about getting books to people who need them but can’t get them, they’ll show you how. And a monetary donation may be more useful than an actual book.

In the spirit of World Book Night 2014
Okay, so the first ten people to DM us with why they think books should be given will get a randomly chosen YA book. You may like to have the book sent to a friend or an organisation.