An author has launched a campaign that aims to encourage discussion about the emotional worth of books.
What’s a Book Worth? is asking readers to film themselves talking about a book that means a lot to them and share those thoughts on 28th September, using the hashtag #WhatsABookWorth, the title of the book and its cover price. It is also encouraging readers to write a short blurb about a book that they love and share it on social media.
Writer and historian Mathew Lyons (pictured), whose most recent book is The Favourite (Constable), said the campaign aimed to look beyond the monetary value of a book and encourage people to talk about their personal relationships with books instead. “A good book represents absurdly good value for money,” he told The Bookseller. “As low-cost, premium items they are in a strange, perhaps even unique, position in the marketplace. Paperbacks are priced at an almost disposable level—the same as a couple of cups of good coffee, say, or a couple of magazines.
“If you buy someone a book as a present, you can spend nearly as much on wrapping paper and a card as on the book itself. But books aren’t casual purchases for most people. We all have books that mean a great deal to us, books that have changed our lives. So why don’t we talk about that fact more? Why not celebrate the extraordinary value they bring to our lives?”
Lyons came up with the idea for What’s a Book Worth? during a live forum run by author and life coach John-Paul Flintoff, which was attended by authors and publishers, in the midst of a discussion he had with Flintoff and Unbound co-founder and c.e.o. Dan Kieran about their personal relationships with books.
“It would be nice if publishers thought more broadly and imaginatively about marketing the emotional value of books, but everyone has a part to play,” said Lyons.
He added: “As far as I can see, pretty much all publishing marketing is trade marketing, pushing a particular title or series or titles. There doesn’t seem to be any big thinking going on. A national campaign across TV and print media with publicity materials celebrating books would be a wonderful thing, wouldn’t it? “But actually I think it’s the responsibility of all of us— publishers, bookshops, authors, the media—to talk more about value, both monetary and otherwise. I think many of us innately shy away from the subject. But it’s an important one from a consumer‘s perspective.”
Lyons said he hoped consumers would “enjoy sharing their thoughts and feelings about books that are deeply meaningful to them”.
He continued: “It’s always a lovely feeling to find someone who feels the same way about a particular book as you do. I hope that feeling will be felt by many, many people. I hope readers will connect with one another through the campaign, both over particular books and over a love of books in general.”
Authors, Lyons said, would hopefully “get a sense of how much books mean to people”. He added: “People have very deep emotional connections to books. I really hope the campaign helps communicate that to everyone.”
Lyons said that he hoped the campaign would be able to expand in the future. “It would be wonderful to have schools involved, as well as bookshops, book clubs, reading groups, publishers,” he said. “There are so many of us for whom books are an integral part of our emotional lives. That really ought to be something to celebrate.”