Want to appear extremely generous this Christmas? As from today, you can visit the World Book Night Website, choose a title and apply to give away 48 copies to whoever in the whole world you think is worthy of such a bestowal. As part of World Book Night publishers of authors such as Carol Ann Duffy, Margaret Atwood, David Mitchell, Phillip Pullman, Nigel Slater, Toni Morrison and Yann Martel will be giving away 40,000 copies of each title to successful applicants who are encouraged to pass the titles on.
We all know there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and in this case these free books come written in promotory ink; their objective is to increase the market of those who buy and read books. Thus books by dead authors whose rights are not owned by any publishing house will not feature in the big giveaway.
To enter you must explain your choice of book in 100 words. Those you choose to pass the books onto are asked to pass it on again once they’ve read it, thus the pool of book readers (and buyers) will expand like ripples on the water’s surface. On top of the 960, 000 books being given away by the winning applicants, 40,000 titles will be handed out by the event’s organisers to those whose access to literature is restricted.
This is an epic project: 1,000,000 books worth £8,390,000 will be given away in the course of an evening. Naturally, some booksellers are distraught that the products they are struggling to sell are being given away for nothing at all. But if the concept works, it will mark a progressive day in publishing history; bringing reading down from its place on high-brow shelves of the intelligentia and dusting it off for everyone to enjoy.