New books for old?
I spent this morning, World Book Day, with a radio crew in a shop window in Harrogate giving away new books for old. Don’t ask how I got involved in it. I was offered it by a local radio station and then got swept up in the euphoria.
I write novels and publish, most of the time, in mainstream publishing, so I’m involved, from time to time in promoting and helping to sell new books. My own. I arrive for personal appearances in bookshops and libraries, talk about my work, peddle my books.
As a writer, I find myself in the strange position of forever trying to introduce people to new books. Strange for me, because I don’t particularly like new books, or read them very often. I much prefer the old ones, some of which I’ve read before and others which, until now, have managed to give me the slip.
But on my blog I very rarely review new books. In the last year, I’ve reviewed perhaps two or three of them, and for each of those I could quote you extenuating circumstances. Because I don’t normally read new novels, let alone review them. There are far to many old ones that I haven’t got around to yet.
Generally, new commodities are preferable to old ones. New socks for old, that would make perfect sense to me, and, were someone to offer it, I’d be somewhere near the front of the queue. A new car for my old one, or a new computer for my old one, yes, without a lot of hesitation, I would probably take you up on both offers.
But new books for old, that is something entirely different. Books are about content, we value them for what they say or what they tell us about our condition. And, in my experience, the old books, the ones that have been around for some time, often perform that function better than the new ones, the ones that are advertised on the television or on the publisher’s hoardings.
I believe – 200,000 new titles published in the UK last year, something approaching the same number in the USA, and that’s before we begin looking at numbers in the rest of Europe, in Asia, Africa and South America – that too many new books are published each year. I would like to see fewer, but better quality titles.
Please feel free to rage about it if you must.
Next World Book Day you will, more likely, find me in the queue that is giving away old books for new. Because in that line I’ll be more likely to find something that I want to read.
(Oh, yes, I almost forgot to mention: I’m not promoting a new novel just now, but you can see some of my old titles here.)