Why is the book refusing to die? Can't it read?

Share

The literary world had its own "white smoke moment" last week when it finally announced the name and sponsor of a brand new prize for fiction. The stated aim of the Folio Prize is "to celebrate the best fiction of our time, regardless of form or genre, and to bring it to the attention of as many readers as possible". Some people won't like it, but of course anyone who objects to having excellent fiction brought to their attention doesn't have to take part.

Its sponsor, the Folio Society, has ignored repeated announcements of the imminent death of the paper book and continues to produce beautiful editions of fantastic novels that people just keep buying. Meanwhile, the Women's Prize for Fiction, formerly the Orange Prize, will announce its own new sponsor in the summer. Everybody wants in on the book prize market. It's so exciting that, at the Folio Prize's launch on Wednesday, somebody fainted. Perhaps it was a marketing exec from Amazon.

Poor Amazon. (Not really.) The backlash against the tax-avoiding scumbags continues, with successful authors joining readers in helping to support real bookshops. Ian Rankin has written an essay to appear only in copies of his novels sold in proper shops. Alexander McCall Smith has included an exclusive short story in copies of his novel Trains and Lovers that are bought in Foyles. And, last week, Joanne Harris joined in, with an extra chapter in paperbacks of her Peaches for Monsieur le Curé when they are bought in Waterstones. Readers benefit from DVD-style extras. Writers benefit by propping up the shops that do the real work to sell their books. Amazon doesn't benefit, but hey, it benefits from all the roads and educated workers and infrastructure that we taxpayers pay for, so we won't lose too much sleep over it.

However, ebooks generally are not doing badly. Last week, the Office for National Statistics revealed its new "shopping basket" of random goods by which it will measure inflation. White rum and ebooks are in; champagne and taps are out. I'd still rather sip champagne while reading a paperback in the bath, but if modern people prefer ebooks and mojitos, at least they are reading.

And they are. Earlier this month, a survey for World Book Day found that 71 per cent of parents – 10 million families – make time regularly to read to their children. Modern children are as at home with iPads as they are with turning pages – though not in my house, where any child who leaves snotty fingerprints on a screen will be sent up a chimney. But there are few things more thrilling than seeing a child beginning to love books in any form. Today, The Very Hungry Caterpillar: tomorrow, the world.

Learning to read can mean the difference between success and prison. (Three-quarters of prisoners have a reading level below that expected of an 11-year-old.) But learning to love reading can open a door to riches beyond, well, Amazon's wildest dreams. In a good year for bad news, here is something to celebrate. Let's raise a white rum cocktail to reading.

twitter.com/@katyguest36912

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher We have a fantastic special n...

Tradewind Recruitment: History Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an 11-18 all ability co-educat...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Recruitment Genius: Transport Administrator / Planner

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

If I were Prime Minister: Every privatised corner of the NHS would be taken back into public ownership

Philip Pullman
 

Errors & Omissions: Magna Carta, sexing bishops and ministerial aides

John Rentoul
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee