Guest Post: The Importance of Reading Indie

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As regular readers will know, I am a big fan of the independent presses. When I spotted this latest venture being set up by Bex of NinjaBookSwap fame I was eager to help spread the word. Please welcome to my blog a lovely lady who works tirelessly to introduce readers to each other and to quality books. I know she would welcome your support for her latest project, and to add you to her list of recipients of the Ninja Book Box when it launches in November.   

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Hello I’m Bex, I blog over at An Armchair By The Sea and run the Ninja Book Swap, the Parcels of Joy Project and organise the annual London Bookshop Crawl. I’m here today talking about my love of independent publishers and how it led to the creation of my newest project.

I was brought up around independent bookshops. My family are readers and my parents taught me to treasure and support local businesses. Our visits to our local bookshops (two fantastic ones both now sadly no more, although one has been reincarnated) were regular traditions – something to be celebrated. I have as much of a soft spot for Waterstone’s as anyone else, but I’ve never had the same browsing experience there that I do in indies, where you can see that the booksellers have often had free reign with their recommendations and imagination for the creation of events and displays. It was this love of independent bookshops which nurtured the thrill of discovery of new books and authors that initially led to the creation of my blog and ultimately of Ninja Book Box.

Since the beginning of the year I’ve been challenging myself to buy only books published by independent publishers and I’ve found it hard. With a few exceptions I’m becoming increasingly aware that the books that I’m most aware of due to blogger hype, Waterstone’s windows and other advertising, and which subsequently end up on my wishlist are almost always published by big publishers, with the exception of books that get listed for or win big prizes. It can be really difficult to find indies by accident, and even looking I struggled, but the struggle was worth it because I’ve read so many excellent books this year.

One of my favourite things about small presses is that they often have a very specific aim or ethos, for example to publish translated fiction, excellent non-fiction or to engage readers with the process of publishing, and focusing on these niches can be a really good way to find things you wouldn’t normally consider.

I get the same thrill now when I discover a new publisher as I get when I visit an independent bookshop. Of course there’s the excellent anticipation of new things regardless of whether the place is indie or not, but in independents (publishers or bookshops) I always feel like I’ll find more unusual stuff. Chain bookshops can often feel a bit formulaic, with the same books on the tables and similar displays in every branch. I love independent bookshops because they’re free to do their own thing, create their own atmosphere and go the extra mile, and I love independent publishers for many of the same reasons.

The struggle to find books published by indies in mainstream bookshops whilst actively searching for them led me to wonder just how many people not actively searching were missing out, so I did what I do and asked twitter what it thought of a UK based book box featuring only titles published by independents. The answer was overwhelmingly positive, and here we are!

Ninja Book Box fills a gap, particularly for those of us here in the UK. Although there are lots of one book a month type subscriptions here, Ninja Book box will offer a simple way to discover lots of different independent publishers, new or backlist books in many genres and lots of extras as well as gift items, to enhance the reading experience. I will be working closely with publishers to get recommendations of excellent, underrated titles and with small businesses to create and provide gifts linked to the book. We are going for useful gifts as well as just cool or beautiful stuff so expect things to be a little out of the ordinary!

I have so many plans for the future of the box and have been working really hard to bring the November box together. I launched a Kickstarter to help fund the startup costs and its success has given me so much more confidence that this idea is as good as I think it is! The Kickstarter runs until October 2nd so if you’d like more information on the box please do go and check it out. Due to popularity it’s also the only way you can get hold of the first box, other than the giveaway below!

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If you would like to support Bex, details of her Kickstarter may be found here:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/241420299/the-ninja-book-box

You may wish to follow on Twitter: Ninja Book Box (@NinjaBookBox)

If you would like to enter the giveaway to receive the first box you may do so here: 

a Rafflecopter giveaway  

The giveaway is open internationally and people who’ve backed the Kickstarter can also enter – if they win and are already receiving a box as a reward for backing then they can either get a second box for someone else or redeem the February box for free.

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This post is a stop on the Ninja Book Box blog tour. Do check out the other stops, listed below.

 

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Celebrating the pleasure of reading

Today is World Book Day in the UK and Ireland. Do other countries take part? Perhaps it has an aspirational nomenclature. It is certainly an event that it would be good to see celebrated widely.

When my children were younger their school asked them to dress up as their favourite book character. Not being a skilled seamstress I would encourage my brood to choose a character who wore clothes resembling those they possessed. My son once went as Arthur Dent which he particularly enjoyed.

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Schools often invite an author to visit and talk to their pupils. These days I am looking at these visits from the other side as my author friends mention the places they have been invited to attend in order to inspire the next generation of readers and writers. I hope that the children treat them kindly.

All under 18s are given a token which enables them to pick up a free book produced specially for the occasion. These contain an original story, often from a series which is popular with young readers. My children still have a number of these books in their collections.

I love the idea of World Book Day with its emphasis on encouraging all children to read. It is an inclusive event which aims to share the pleasure that books can bring.

Next month I will be joining in with another initiative which aims to share the literary love with adults. World Book Night gives away a range of books which have been specially selected for the occasion. Having been accepted as a volunteer I will be giving away Chickenfeed by Minette Walters at my local train station.

I derive so much pleasure from reading and am eager to encourage others to discover that joy. As has been said of children but is equally applicable to adults:

There is no such thing as a child who hates to read; there are only children who have not found the right book.

Sharing books with random strangers

I am passionate about books. Like most book bloggers I review books because I want to talk about them, write about them, and to encourage others to read. When I discover a good book I want to shout about it from the rooftops. As my neighbours may complain if I indulged in such behaviour I shout about it via social media instead.

Thanks to Twitter, last year I came across a book sharing initiative called Books Underground which operates in London (there is a similar group in New York called Books on the Subway). So many wonderful, bookish events happen in our capital city and I felt a little rueful that such enterprises rarely make it out as far as my little corner of the world.

I decided that there was no point in harbouring such feelings. Instead, I determined to try to do something about this lack so set up Books As You Go.

I approached a number of publishers and was delighted by the support that Arcadia BooksHeadline Publishing and Transworld gave me. Thanks to them I have been able to share some fabulous titles over the course of the six months that we have been up and running.

I say we. Books As You Go is still mainly me. I have persuaded family members to help out if they happen to be travelling by train anyway but most shares are actioned by me alone. Perhaps if we are given more books to share then we shall grow.

So, what does a share entail?

Every couple of weeks I load up my trusty canvas tote bag with a stack of books and catch a train from my local station. I leave the train at each stop and place a couple of books on a table in the waiting rooms. My regular drops occur at Chippenham, Bath Spa and Bristol Temple Meads but books have also been left at Swindon and Reading. Where I share depends on the number of books I have to give away and how much time I have to do so.

Each book is adorned with a sticker

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and contains a slip of paper explaining what the book share is about.

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I know that the books are picked up because I check as I pass back through on my way home! It is gratifying when the people who pick up the books tweet or message via Facebook to let me know that a book has been found.

At Christmas I wanted to do something special so I gathered together a number of my own books that I had multiple copies of and shared these alongside the books that publishers had kindly provided. This seemed a much better use of a book than having it sit unread on my shelves.

I see this book share initiative as a random act of benevolence. To me books are precious and I want to share the joy that they can bring. Most of the time I have no idea who picks the books up but I like to think that the unexpected find has made their day just that little bit better.

I state on the slip of paper inside each book that I would like whoever finds it to return the book when they have read it for someone else to find. I look forward to the day when I am passing through a station and see one of our books left by a reader for another traveller to enjoy.