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I'm not lovin' it

It is no secret that the nutritional value of a book from an ex-children’s laureate will outweigh any burger from McDonald's, but the news that Michael Morpurgo’s Mudpuddle Farm series will be given away as the free gift with Happy Meals could go either way for booksellers.

In theory, it’s a good idea; after the recent figures that one in four children in the UK don’t own a book, the hope is that this will crossover neatly with the millions of people who eat under the golden arches every week. A nation of book buyers and book owners would be great, even if they do have greasy fingers, and perhaps this Morpurgo title could be the first book to start their library.

Of course, public libraries, schools and charity shops have long meant there are cheaper ways of acquiring a book than buying a box of McNuggets so why should reluctant readers take any more notice of the book under the burger? If anything, this does more for McDonald's' image than anyone’s—shaking up their menu with salads and replacing toys with books sends all the right signs that they’re really trying to improve.

For booksellers like me, it is another example of giving away for free what we work so hard to give value to. The disposable nature of the previous ‘gifts’ that have accompanied Happy Meals amounts to no more than scrap plastic and it’s an insult to the industry that books should be thought of as an equivalent. The idea of these precious pages littering the car parks and drive-thrus is a sad scene indeed. For Morpurgo it’s an unhealthy association with a corporation that capitalises on fast and cheap but I don’t really believe, on the week that "War Horse" hits the cinema, that he was looking for a push on sales. He’s the good guy here, lending gravitas to a scheme that has good intentions. Again, in theory – it sounds like a great idea for all involved.

Selfishly, what upsets me most is the news that the other token gift in the box is a voucher for another Morpurgo book, redeemable only at W H Smith. As an independent children’s bookshop in a town that shares the high street with a W H Smith we are constantly working to compete with their never-ending deals and red sticker discounts. Now they can give away for free what we have to pay to sell.

If the offer motivates a non-reader to seek out further Morpurgo books, and I don’t doubt that it will, it could mean a child’s first experience of a bookshop is W H Smith, setting price expectations accordingly. Maybe the combined might of McMorpurgo could have spared a thought for us.

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I, too, work hard in my bookshop to sell books against mounting odds, but I think this response is quite snobbish. I am middle class but spend time in Mcdonalds if my two girls fancy it for a treat - and meet other middle class mums there too. A free book is not a devalued item in itself - what about World Book Night? - what devalues books is the excessive discounting which results in wide disparities in what the customer can expect to pay leading them assume the full rrp is the rip off price. I do agree that the voucher would be useful to us all if it were not exclusive but this is just a WHS deal I suppose, one that Morpurgo probably had no say over. If it means just one more child coming into a bookshop, even if via WHS, then it's a good thing and has more longevity than any plastic toy.

Thanks for your comment Dinah. I think we're in more agreement than you realise. I did not intend any kind of class observation so I'm sorry you felt this way reading my post.
Katie

I find this statistic of one in four children not owning a book hard to believe. My children are still at school and I've helped out in various nurseries, schools and clubs with children from a wide variety of backgrounds. One thing they all seem to have in common is that they have books.

People seem to think it's a middle class thing for children to have books, but libraries are a main place for poorer parents to take their children because they're free. This is one reason the closure of libraries is so serious - it affects the poor most of all.

I do wonder how they work out this 1 in 4 result. I just can't believe it.

Regarding the article - I don't think that giving away books in McDonald's devalues them. I don't even think money off vouchers make much of an impact because we're given so many of them by so many businesses.

"I do wonder how they work out this 1 in 4 result. I just can't believe it." The original statistic came from a Daily Mail article. Say no more. It seems to me a method by which they can help their readers look down their noses at the unwashed masses... Oops, i said some more.

I'll correct myself before some other smart alec does. The survey was carried out by the Literary trust and reported in the Daily Mail. But it actually said 3 in 10 which is even worse! Just goes to show facts and statistics will be bent to fit the required mould by whoever needs them. Myself included.

I, too, work hard in my bookshop to sell books against mounting odds, but I think this response is quite snobbish. I am middle class but spend time in Mcdonalds if my two girls fancy it for a treat - and meet other middle class mums there too. A free book is not a devalued item in itself - what about World Book Night? - what devalues books is the excessive discounting which results in wide disparities in what the customer can expect to pay leading them assume the full rrp is the rip off price. I do agree that the voucher would be useful to us all if it were not exclusive but this is just a WHS deal I suppose, one that Morpurgo probably had no say over. If it means just one more child coming into a bookshop, even if via WHS, then it's a good thing and has more longevity than any plastic toy.

Thanks for your comment Dinah. I think we're in more agreement than you realise. I did not intend any kind of class observation so I'm sorry you felt this way reading my post.
Katie

I find this statistic of one in four children not owning a book hard to believe. My children are still at school and I've helped out in various nurseries, schools and clubs with children from a wide variety of backgrounds. One thing they all seem to have in common is that they have books.

People seem to think it's a middle class thing for children to have books, but libraries are a main place for poorer parents to take their children because they're free. This is one reason the closure of libraries is so serious - it affects the poor most of all.

I do wonder how they work out this 1 in 4 result. I just can't believe it.

Regarding the article - I don't think that giving away books in McDonald's devalues them. I don't even think money off vouchers make much of an impact because we're given so many of them by so many businesses.

"I do wonder how they work out this 1 in 4 result. I just can't believe it." The original statistic came from a Daily Mail article. Say no more. It seems to me a method by which they can help their readers look down their noses at the unwashed masses... Oops, i said some more.

I'll correct myself before some other smart alec does. The survey was carried out by the Literary trust and reported in the Daily Mail. But it actually said 3 in 10 which is even worse! Just goes to show facts and statistics will be bent to fit the required mould by whoever needs them. Myself included.