Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Crossing Books. Would you?: Gillian Philip

BookCrossing. It's that thing where people set books free in public places, hoping to hear back from them when the finder registers them on the website; BookCrossers also exchange books online, sometimes but not always supplied by publishers. I've never sent a book into the wild myself, but my books have been Crossed, so to speak, and it's been a positive experience for me.
It's on my mind because I'm speaking at the UK BookCrossing UnConvention in Edinburgh on Saturday. It's also on my mind because I talked about the practice on Radio Scotland's Book Cafe a couple of weeks ago, along with enthusiastic BookCrosser and UnConvention organiser Liz Broomfield.
I was playing the odd role of devil's and angel's advocate in the discussion. After all, I wouldn't be speaking at the UnCon if I was against the whole thing, but the interviewer wanted to know: was BookCrossing a bad thing for writers? It's one more way of cutting our earnings, after all, and heaven knows there are already enough ways of doing that.
There are a few answers to this from BookCrossers. Firstly (they say), they try books they'd never otherwise consider, and expanding the readership of books can only be a good thing. Secondly, if they love your book, Crossers will often end up buying it, for themselves or as gifts. Thirdly - and here's what I like - part of the deal, with books passed round web 'Bookrings', is that you get an online review. And reviews in the regular press are almost as hard to come by as royalties from Tesco.
I confess I'm keen on it, and not just because the BookCrossers have been largely nice to me and my books. All their arguments have merit, but more than that, I like their enthusiasm. I like that they are passionate about books. I can't help feeling that as long as there are people like BookCrossers around, books won't die the death that's often foretold.
Of course, I also hope that BookCrossers love books enough to understand that there won't be as many of them around in the future - at least, books not written by Jordan - if writers can't earn a living.
But I know a lot of writers are against the whole idea. I'd love to hear some views. Then I could put on my General and Allied Writers Militant Union hat on Saturday, as well as my Kiss-Me-Quick-BookCrossers one.
And I couldn't think of an illustration for this post. Which is why I've been a chancer and just posted a picture of one of my covers, Bad Faith. Sorry.

9 comments:

Stroppy Author said...

Hi Gillian - I'm in favour. Anything that gets people reading... And if they like the book they may well buy it, or another of your books, or at least take one out of the library. I doubt sales are lost.

Elen Caldecott said...

I like the idea too - thought I know from working in bars etc that a lot of the books end up in lost property and then a charity shop...

Michael Malone said...

I'm for it too - since there have been book buyers there have been people passing the books that they have bought on to their friends. Book crossing is simply a different way of doing it. It also conveys a special message as the "crosser" is effectively saying this is a special book that deserves an audince.

Keren David said...

It's like a library, with reviews. Any idea how many people are involved in the UK?

Nicola Morgan said...

ah, but it's not like a library because we don't get PLR. On balance I am for it, for the same reasons as as you, but only if it is accompanied by the message that actully BUYing NEW books is the ONLY way for authors, and therfore books, to survive.

bookchildworld said...

I've done bookcrossing, and I am in favour of it. The thing is, the people who do this are also the keen readers and heavy book buyers. So I am sure it will go to building a general passion for books and reading- which can only be good for all involved.

Lee said...

Nicola, I'm surviving just fine - last time I checked. Writers emphatically do not have to live from their words alone. There are other options.

Nicola Morgan said...

But Lee, what if we *want* to and if that is our aim? We do have the right to earn from our artistic endeavours. It's even in the Dec of Human Rights! After all, a teacher expects to earn a living from teaching etc etc. I'm not at all against book-crossing - after all, it's about sharing and loving books - but I do promote our right and need to earn, and I do support a good business model where the creator has adequate control. I'm for awareness and understanding and fairness. Book crossing, when accompanied by that message, is wonderful. In fact, it can be a wonderful vehicle for the message.

Gillian Philip said...

I'm with Nicola - yes, we could get day jobs but if we want to write full-time, we should be able to earn a respectable living. The good news is that BookCrossers understand that, love books and like authors too!