April 23, 2014 marks the commemoration of World Book Night in the United States. It is also the International Day of the Book, which is commemorated in other countries by giving a loved one a book. This commemoration — known specifically as World Book Night U.S. — has been going on for at least a couple of years, unbeknownst to me. I love the idea of it. The particulars may be found herebut the gist of this celebration is that a number of authors and other good people in several cities across the United States will be hand-giving away copies of special editions of more than thirty books to those who for one reason or another don’t have access to the print books. I literally just found out about this (on Thursday, March 27, 2014, to be exact) and am, uh, a little late to the party in terms of signing up to do something is concerned, but I have already taken steps to officially participate in 2015, if the Lord be willing and creek doesn’t rise. May I make so bold to say that we, authors and readers alike, should be strongly on board with this?
It is not bulletin news to any of us that there is a great deal of competition out there for that very limited thing known as leisure time. Television, movies, video games, the stage…curling up with a good book is not everyone’s leisure drug of choice. Just as we have a generation of people who have attained their majority without ever having heard a jazz album in its entirety (my younger daughter was ready to call Children’s Services when I made her spend thirty minutes of a road trip listening to Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue) there is a large chunk of the population who haven’t read a book that wasn’t called “Cliff Notes” since eighth grade. Oh, the Humanity! Each of you reading these words knows someone like that, someone good and decent whom you call friend but who just doesn’t read. You know their interests, what types of television shows they watch or what movies they enjoy; with just a bit of thought you can put a book that matches their interests in their hands, for the price of a trip to Sonic or dinner out, depending if you buy them a hardback or paperback.
The music industry has been doing something like this for several years with “National Record Store Day,” supporting local music stores selling physical product (usually vinyl, believe it or not). In my city of residence, there are actually more stores selling vinyl records than compact discs. World Book Night U.S. isn’t quite the same thing, but it’s a similar sentiment: support the product.
Please: take ten minutes, pick one person out of your circle of acquaintances and lay a brand new book on them on April 23. I’m mentioning this three-plus weeks ahead of time to give you time to plan it and to pick up all that loose change on the floor of your car to pay for it. Trust me: whoever you pick will be delighted that you thought of them, and they might even read the book. And another. And another. And as a treat for yourself, visit the Book Night website and pick up a coffee mug or a tee-shirt or something while you’re signing up to be an official participant for next year. The toughest part will be handing away all of those special editions (“Huh? What box of special editions of PRESUMED INNOCENT by Scott Turow? Oops. I forget to pass those out.”) but somehow we’ll manage. And thank you.