World Book Night U.S. calls it quits


World Book Night U.S. is suspending operations, Publishers Weekly reports, after just three years.

The idea of World Book Night is to have volunteers give away free books all on a single day in April. In 2013, 27,500 American volunteers distributed half a million books.

In Southern California, World Book Night volunteers have given away copies of Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” from a firetruck, paddled out into the waves to give (plastic-bagged) books to surfers, and handed out copies of Anthony Bourdain’s “Kitchen Confidential” to restaurant patrons.


World Book Night began in England, which also holds World Book Day for kids. World Book Day is a widely organized project to get kids excited about reading; it includes live events and giveaways based in bookshops. World Book Night launched in 2011 to give grown-ups their own version; it will continue in the UK.

In its first year, London’s World Book Night included a massive public reading in Trafalgar Square with Alan Bennett, Nick Cave and Margaret Atwood. The givers had handed out 1 million free books.

Some in England had concerns that giving books away would be bad for the book business, but fears were allayed when sales figures came in. The giveaway actually helped sales of the books being distributed.

The problem in the U.S. was the cost of, production, organization and distribution. “The expenses of running World Book Night U.S., even given the significant financial and time commitment from publishers, writers, booksellers, librarians, printers, distributors, and shippers, are too high to sustain without additional outside funding,” executive director Carl Lennertz wrote in a statement.

American publishers had supported World Book Night by printing special copies of the two dozen giveaway books. Authors waived their royalties. Yet that was not enough to keep World Book Night U.S. in business.

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