I’ve been guest blogging again… this time a quick thought on W H Smith.
Last Thursday was ‘Super Thursday’, the day on which over 200 new titles hit the shops, all of them trying to tempt the reader in the Christmas market. And of these 200 titles, how many got media coverage? About ten. And not many of them were, in my opinion, ‘super’.
Lets have a look a few books from the list that got the culture sections of the newspapers in a fizz:
1. Jamie’s Great Britain, by Jamie Oliver.
OK, so it’s hard to knock Jamie, with his cheeky-chappy personality and really rather nice food. But really, another book? After a quick look on Amazon.co.uk, I reckon he’s had about 20 cook-books out. Is there anything left for him to cook? And is it me, or is he starting to look a little like Ray Winstone? Seriously though, I like Jamie, and I like the way he chooses special papers and inks in order to produce environmentally conscious books. It’s just a shame that his dominance of the Christmas market leaves little room for newer cook-books from smaller publishers, like this one. As for the environment, I think I’m right in saying that, for all his ethics of print and paper, his books are printed in China and shipped half-way around the world. But don’t get me started on ‘book-miles’. The perfect gift book for anyone that hasn’t already given the early ‘Jamie’ books to the charity shop.
2. Red, by Gary Neville.
“No player has been more synonymous with the glory years of Manchester United Football Club over the past two decades than right-back Gary Neville”, runs the blurb for this book. That’s true, as long as you forget David Beckham, Bryan Robson, Peter Schmeichel, Ryan Giggs, Mark Hughes, and a host of others. To be fair, he may come out with some original and insightful revelations about the club, but will this book only be of interest to Man U fans? Was it ghost-written? Is this another charity shop shelf-filler?
3. May I Have Your Attention Please?, by James Corden.
No, James, you may not have my attention. Come back when you’re 66, not 33. You’ll be more interesting then. Perhaps that’s harsh. As with Jamie Oliver, I think it’s hard not to like James Corden. He’s a good actor and writer, but has he done enough in his 33 years to warrant a book of his life? I’m not sure he has. There are lots of actors and writers out there, is he special? Perhaps he’s got an appeal that I can’t see. Because he’s a writer, he may not have had this title ghost-written, and at least that’s something in its favour.
4. The Way I See It, by Alan Sugar.
Unlike James Corden, Alan is 64 and has lived a life. Also unlike James Corden, I think it is quite hard to like him. Personally, I don’t like him or his bullying business style, but he’s been a success and may have some interesting things to say. I should also say I’ve never seen The Apprentice, but I’ve seen the trailers, and that’s enough for me. Any of his apprentice’s books would be titled Excelsior Alpha Platinum Plus.
So that’s four titles out of the list, and I can’t say they’re very inspiring. Other titles on the list were The Inbetweeners Year Book, Jeremy Clarkson’s Round the Bend and I, Partridge by Alan Partridge. All good in their way, but books are a personal matter, and I have to say I’d be disappointed to receive any of them on Christmas morning.
Maybe they’re not aimed at me, and that’s fair enough. I am not their target market. They may not be stocked in the small independent bookshops that I like to browse in – they’re more likely to be stacked high in the supermarkets and W H Smith. And that’s fair enough too, because they, like the books I enjoy, will be read, and enjoyed. Anything that encourages reading is good, and anything that provides jobs for the publishing industry is good. Is it a shame that these books aren’t future literary classics or written by exciting new authors? Personally, yes. But are these books just as valid and important and worthwhile as any other title? Yes. Just because I don’t want to read them doesn’t mean it’s not a ‘Super Thursday’ for the publishers, the mass-market retailers, and those that think Alan Sugar is interesting.