December 8, 2009
I’m a writer and I love the BookCrossers for their unconditional love of books in general; for the support they’ve given me as an author; and for what they’ve taught me as a reader.
I’ve been an avid devourer of books ever since I can remember, but it wasn’t until I met up with my first group of BookCrossers that I began to understand how the physical book itself can develop a significance beyond the content of the story it tells. If I’ve read and enjoyed a book, however long ago, I only need to hold it in my hand and the feelings that it triggered at the time will stir me again.
I loved Bruce Pedersen’s article in the March 09 newsletter, ‘What’s so special about a BookCrossed book?’ with its emphasis on the journey of the physical copy. He talks about keeping the actual books alive. This strikes a particular cord for me as a writer, and, no doubt, for many other writers too.
In these days of short shelf-lives in bookshops, and the speedy pulping of copies that have failed to fly off the shelves within their first three months, how else, apart from the few that are still held in public libraries, will authors’ treasured creations still be available for their intended audiences, if it weren’t for the BookCrossers? (OK, there are the on-line sellers, but when the book is out of print, what then?)
The other aspect of BookCrossing that appeals to me as both reader and writer is the size and independence of the network itself with its tentacles reaching out across the globe, sharing information and opinions about books that are not necessarily those being promoted by the publishers and booksellers. The recommendations of BookCrossers spread across a far wider range than these, providing a much greater choice of books to read and ideas to share.
This isn’t the place for me to write about the increasing difficulty of getting novels published, even for some well established authors. Nonetheless, the state of publishing will inevitably have an effect on readers, for good or ill. There have been a couple of dispiriting articles in the Bookseller recently, about the way some publishers are reducing advances to authors by up to 70% and cancelling books to cut costs
Does this matter? Maybe not. Aren’t there enough books out there already – especially with BookCrossers keeping the existing ones in circulation?
As an author myself, I’m naturally going to believe that it does matter. But even as a reader, I’d prefer to think that the final decision to accept a novel for publication was based on the literary judgement of an experienced Commissioning Editor, rather than the financial forecasts of the Sales and Marketing teams, or, increasingly, of the Supermarket Book-Buyers, who’ve been trained in the same methods of ‘product placement’ as their colleagues, the Buyers of soap powders, baked beans, and cans of pop.
Any organisation that champions books, offers real choices to readers, and subverts the role of Big Business in the Book World wins my vote. Hurray for BookCrossers!
Click here to find out more about Christine Coleman.