Monday, 24 January 2011

Books and Bookshops

by Leigh Russell

I’m not convinced that initiatives to give away free books encourages a perception that books have value. I understand the rationale behind these initiatives which seek to engage new readers and promote particular authors. But I suspect the consequence of giving books away for free is that books will just become further devalued. Many readers say they never pay full price for a book – even though the average book will set you back the price of a couple of cups of coffee, or a couple of pints in the pub, and without revenue from readers, publishers and authors will largely disappear.
Bricks and mortar bookshops face huge competition from online suppliers, charity shops, supermarkets and free book campaigns – and that’s before considering the impact of ebooks. I’m passionate about the survival of bookshops and spend a lot of time in different branches of the major chains, and in libraries, talking to readers. I wish more authors would support bookshops and libraries in this way.
And just in case the situation here continues to deteriorate, I’m building my intergalactic fanbase (You can see a few of them in the picture).
But there is a more serious concern which is not how books will be delivered in future, but whether people will continue reading on a significant scale, with all the other forms of entertainment on offer. Today’s youngsters spend their time in front of television, computer or mobile phone screens and bookshops have their work cut out to attract them. But it’s a campaign worth fighting and one they must win if they are to survive.

Leigh Russell is author of the bestselling Geraldine Steel series of crime thrillers.
CUT SHORT (2009) shortlisted for CWA New Blood Dagger
DEAD END (2011)

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