Thursday, March 01, 2007
World Book Day
During my time at Ottakar's we were encouraged to do events on World Book Day and there would always be a shop that managed to get a picture in The Bookseller of a member of staff dressed as Charles Dickens or someone sitting in a window reading a book (which always seemed like a way of not doing any work). A week or two later, at the Ottakar's annual managers' meeting, that shop would invariably win an award.
I could never quite see the point of doing 'in-store' activities on World Book Day as the only people around seemed to be pensioners, the mentally ill and a few harrassed-looking mothers of small children. Why didn't we have WBD on a Saturday?
Then, one year, I decided to take the mountain to Mohammed and set up a stall at a local school. It was a revelation. Seeing children, some of whom had never bought a book before, clutching their free £1 vouchers and looking genuinely excited made me realise how important World Book Day is. Yes, it is an opportunity for bookshops and publishers to increase sales and the vouchers are a useful way of driving footfall through the shop, but the most important thing that we can do - if we really do care about reading - is to get out there and make a difference. It's no good just preaching to the converted.
(So what am I doing today? Sitting on my backside at home, of course)
Sadly, not everyone gets the point of World Book Day. Some parents try to use their children's vouchers to buy books for themselves and one charming lady with Elizabeth Duke hoop earrings tried to buy an £18 cookery book with 18 WBD vouchers. I have told staff that they mustn't accept the vouchers for grown-up books (unless a particularly precocious child wants to stretch themselves with War and Peace!)