The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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April 27, 2012

Joe Hadsall: World Book Night a great mix of reading, marketing

JOPLIN, Mo. — Books are near and dear to us at Geek Central:

  • The Lovely Paula Hadsall and I got married in a used bookstore in Springfield.
  • We had a massive collection in the former Geek Central, formerly located near the seemingly redundantly named Gabby Street Boulevard. When filling out our replacement costs for insurance, we determined we had more money in books than in all of our kitchen appliances combined.
  • The new Geek Central has decoration featuring a library-like theme: Kids and young-adult books go in the younger stepkid’s room; writing, reference and magic books go in the office and the living room has the rest. We already have five bookshelves filled with books.
  • We have six copies of “Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell.” One of them is autographed, one of them is a trade paperback re-release with a forward by Neil Gaiman, two of them are hardbacks (one is the rare white-jacket version) and one of them is actually a three-book volume. It’s not our absolute, drop-dead favorite book, but it’s close to the top, and for some reason, we like having as many copies as possible.
  • Other shelves contain some of our other beloved titles, including my collection of Neal Stephenson, her Robert Jordan hardbacks (we’re just two away from a full set! Just need Nos. 3 and 5), her “Little Prince” pop-up, my Michael Crichtons and our Christopher Moore books (including a signed copy of “Sacre Bleu” and the gilded, Bible-like version of “Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal").

That makes my appreciation for this week’s World Book Night bittersweet: I’m thrilled that such a thing got created, but bummed that TLP and I couldn’t take part.

In a nutshell: A group led by publishers, booksellers and others in the publishing industry formed a non-profit group and published special editions of 30 different books, from “The Stand” to “The Poisonwood Bible.” Those books were shipped to specially chosen “givers,” who handed out the books for free to other people.

Each giver got 20 copies of their chosen title, and gave them away on Monday. More about the story was featured in last Sunday’s Life section. Though some gave their titles to young adults, the program was targeted toward adults who may have stopped reading, or weren’t regular readers to begin with.

Man, I wish I could have been one of those givers. It’s on my to-do list for next year.

Sure, there’s a cynical argument that could be made, about how I want to be a publicity tool for an industry struggling to keep a toehold in a field feeling pressure from electronic media. Giving away books might encourage someone to ... buy more books.

Insert your favorite “dunh dunh DUUUUUNH!” music here. Or just picture that dramatic prairie dog on YouTube.

But I’m pretty sure that buying books is a good thing, whether an evil, faceless company profits or not. Besides, stories that are read are much more personal and impacting to us. I don’t care what one’s favorite movie is -- a DVD copy of that movie wouldn’t be as great a gift as a favorite book from that same person.

When Danya Walker gave me a copy of “The Stand” on Monday, it meant something. That was a beloved title for her -- her readings of it are in the double digits. Also, of all the books we have, including a lot of Stephen King titles, we didn’t have the stand. So thank you, Danya. I look forward to passing out a few titles of my own next year.

With that in mind: TLP heard about another form of book philanthropy that I think we’re gonna try. It’s called setting books free, or releasing them into the wild.

Basically, you simply leave it somewhere. Hopefully the person who finds it reads it and enjoys it a fraction as much as you. Of course, being the book romantics that we are, we’re completely enchanted with the idea and may start doing it soon.

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