PW‘s Douglas Wolk reports on some of the successful efforts to turn average Joes and Janes into successful comic book regulars. Among one of the comic industry’s more enriching promotional tools is Free Comic Book Day, which disseminates samples and various issues of comics every year in May.
All this makes me wonder why the publishing industry isn’t working with bookstores to institute “Free Book Day.” With all the “sky is falling” hyperbole being tossed around by book critics and booksellers alike, would not disseminating literature on a specific day of the year be an apposite way to hook the next generation on reading?
In fact, if the high cost of printing a fat volume is a consideration, this might be a very good way of getting short stories and novellas into the public consciousness. If the publishing industry doesn’t want to take this up, then perhaps literary journals might want to coordinate with independent bookstores to remind the public that there are all sorts of fantastic stories to be read. And if not bookstores, why not publicize a Free Book Day where literary journals are handed out at subway stations or other places where people face the prospect of staring into space for 45 minutes or getting lost in a narrative?
This may seem a rather extraordinary solution, but this kind of pro-active approach sure beats throwing one’s hands up in the air and shrieking “The End is Nigh!” at the top of one’s lungs. And besides, wouldn’t it be a more interesting world — just for one day — if something like A Public Space or The Threepenny Review replaced The New York Sun as the free handout of choice?
Isn’t that called a public library?
I’m so with you on this one, Ed. I love Free Comic Book Day and have discovered some new favorites that way. And if you could see the amount of complimentary reading copies that get thrown out in the average bookstore, you’d know publishers could be doing something better with all that paper. I’d love to see indie publishers work with their local bookstores to publicize Free Book Day, even if it just involves giving away galleys and ARCs that would otherwise be pulped (in fact, that’s what a lot of Free Comics are about — there’s a certain amount of poorly-selling backlist in those bags). Corporate publishers may scoff, but on a grassroots level this could be a huge plus. MacAdam Cage, Akashic, Norton, FSG, Soft Skull — how about it??
Is there a US equivalent of the book tokens British schoolchilden get each World Book Day? Not as sweet as your idea – but guaranteed to get every child into a bookstore at least once a year.