World Book Night in 2012 will see 500,000 rather than 1m books given away, WBN founder Jamie Byng told Book Industry Conference (BIC) delegates this morning, as he also discussed incorporating digital and audio elements into next year's event.
Byng, presenting along with WBN board member Martin Neild at the BIC "What Just Happened?" seminar, said the number of titles given away will be halved, meaning each giver will be responsible for 24 rather than 48 titles, and 500,000 books given away in total. There will still be 25 titles to choose from, with 20,000 givers to be recruited. Five thousand givers are already signed up for 2012.
The Canongate m.d. said it was partly a decision based on logistics for the giver, with multiple copies of heavy books being hard to carry, but added when speaking to The Bookseller: "We don't really need [to give away that many]. Especially if you bring in audio and digital . . . it brings in new audiences." He called digital and audio "two key components for WBN 2012; how exactly they will be involved is something we have yet to finalise". He said: "To not include digital in the equation is to ignore one of the most significant changes in the past year for the industry in this country".
He added: "I think audio is going to be very important to bring into World Book Night. Listening opens a bridge to reading, for those who can't read. WBN is a registered charity and . . . it's about fostering more and more readers".
He also announced that an extract from a book or selected poems by a different author will be printed at the back of each WBN book, chosen by the author of that title. Byng said this was intended to lead readers on to another book.
Sharing the platform with new World Book Day chair Joanna Prior, and former WBD chair Rachel Russell, Byng also said there was an opportunity to work more closely with WBD. He said: "From 1st March (WBD) to 23rd April (WBN), we have this great window, and we need to make the most of this opportunity to celebrate books, to continue to have all sorts of initiatives that will keep books front and centre for people in this country".
He added: "One of the benefits of moving to 23rd April is that it gives us that much more time to work with the givers once we've selected them and that's something that is going to pay off in lots of ways in terms of the events that we do, the way things are publicised, the way we use the website, the involvement of libraries and bookshops in creating events on the 23rd that will draw even more people into engaging with books."
Byng also reiterated plans to publish a special WBN edition of Shakespeare's Sonnets to mark the playwright's birthday, which is also the WBN date, and to select the 25 books this year through public nominations on the website, and an editorial panel featuring bloggers, librarians and perhaps givers as well.
Neild added: "Nothing is set in stone. It wasn't perfect [this year], everything was done at breakneck speed, but it can be better and it will be better". Feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Speaking to The Bookseller about the demographic breakdown of the WBN givers in 2011, Byng said: "We had 40% in the south, and 40% in the north; it wasn't Londoncentric, we had a fantastic spread".