Do you know the generic campaign the book trade should have? One that stresses book ownership. Why is it only in the film world that we see signs saying: ‘Own it now on DVD’? Why don’t we ever see that for books? I’m partly playing devil’s advocate here. We all know the reasons. With very few exceptions – Harry Potter, a new Hannibal Lecter title, perhaps – there just isn’t the ‘must have’ quality to books.
But shouldn’t publishers and booksellers be looking at trying to create this ‘must have’ quality? Yes, there are some offers exclusive to bookshops – signed editions, limited edition hardbacks – but perhaps more needs to be made of them. After all, as much as publishers and booksellers care about literacy and education, ultimately they want people to buy a physical object. But no campaign ever looks at this aspect of books: their place in home life, storage, display, conversation stimulation, making you look cool or erudite or sophisticated or whatever. I’ve written before that there is an element of snobbery about book ownership but, obviously, that is not the whole story. It’s perfectly reasonable to present book ownership as part of being a rounded, caring, aware human being. Look at how many other advertisements present a lifestyle if you buy this particular product. That’s what publishers and booksellers should do.
Peter Crawshaw of Lovereading wrote in The Bookseller: ‘Reading gives much longer-term pleasure than the instant gratification of buying stuff…’, yet, ironically, ‘buying stuff’ is exactly what publishers and booksellers want people to do. They are not going to survive on selling books to libraries, that’s for sure.
The problem of advertising, of course, is the cost. So why not some cross-fertilisation? Why not a three-way ad which advertises the clothes and watch Daniel Craig wears in the new Bond film, and shows the actor reading the new John Grisham, or Ian McEwan, or whatever? Why can’t a book be product placement in such a campaign?