Yes, I am a bit late again here. But on my honour, I’m not simply posting about the 50 Books You Can’t Put Down government initiative to use popular books (this year Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and The Girl that Kicked the Hornet’s Nest make an appearance in the list amongst others) to plug Australian authors and get less bookish people buying and reading books for the sake of a freebie. The 50 Books thing is familiar to anyone in this country who has ever walked through a mall and past a bookstore at the right time, or found the piles of leftovers at remainder or secondhand charity sales.
No, I’m more amused and interested by the first-chapter free previews and events. Of which there are none in my city. In fact, there seems to be a distinct lack of the walk-in public reading spaces in most towns and cities outside of the very big ones. It is a bit baffling to me that an initiative aiming at increasing readership is targeting city centres that are chock-full of literate workers and libraries and bookshops rather than more remote and less culturally accessible areas of Australia, but that’s hardly anything new. It seems that there are authors’ events at some smaller towns, but I have yet to find a way to search for smaller events by state, so I would recommend browsing the tags at the blog which seems to be where all the information actually lurks. Though the month is mostly over now, there are still a few events here and there that might be worth checking out.
There’s a few this year that I know I want to buy, even if I cannot afford new books right now. But I am very excited about the preview chapters. Go here to find a list of the books on the list this year, and to get free previews of them all. It’s not much, and I think I’d have rather had a free ebook or two of Australian based writers than an ipod app, a bright red website and fifty first chapters, but I’m a crazy open-source kind of girl and my brain just likes ideas like that.
I like to think that having access to books freely increases the chances of reading, not lists or sales figures, and I’ve always felt a bit dubious about lists and promotions like this. Why can’t we buy any book published in Australia and get a free ebook of both ‘free’ books? Why are pro-reading campaigns often centred more around bookselling than making libraries more visible and accessible? I have nothing at all against making books affordable or the 50 Books system, I just wish… that small local libraries and pro-literacy programs got half as much flashy publicity.
On that note, a lot of Australian public library systems offer e-book ‘loans’ that have varying levels of downloadability and accessibility, and are well-worth checking out. There are also sometimes e-audio-books available. These systems are great not only for people with limited access to library services, but for those who need larger print or alternative forms of text to help with vision impairments or issues like visual dyslexia. Australian libraries are awesome; even the 50 Books list can be found there!