‘Seriously addictive’. ‘Once you’ve started it’s hard to stop’.

The above are slogans that are to be used in the latest campaign for the promotion of reading, though you would be forgiven for thinking otherwise. The initiative, which to begin with will target existing book buyers, has been deemed ‘edgy […] clever, fun, flexible, memorable’ and ‘a PR catapult’. Such praise of the campaign is hardly surprising, when you consider that it comes from Damian Horner, the man responsible for creating the concept: “Bookaholism”. The project was first initiated by Publisher’s Association CEO Simon Juden and carried through at the Book Industry Conference in order to kick-start the PR stunt and encourage people to buy more books.

Though the campaign will firstly be aimed at those who already purchase books, its creator believes it will also be effective if targeted at those less enthusiastic readers who ‘Quick Reads’ are currently aimed at, with the long term objective being to ‘build (the campaign) into a holistic concept’. Though the overall purpose is obviously to promote books, we’re wondering if it can be right to promote them with the negative associations that inevitably come with addiction. Horner’s slogans of ‘Class A Reading Material’ and ‘Get Hooked on a Book’ certainly make an impact, but is it in the right way? Is this idea of Bookaholism and addiction the only way to inspire and encourage people to pick up a book? Or, as Damian Horner says, will people be just as open to professing themselves ‘Bookaholics’ as they will ‘shopaholics and chocaholics’?

We can only wait and see as to what Horner will be promoting as his ‘Class A Reading Material’…

3 thoughts on “‘Bookaholism’”

  1. It hardly surprises me that someone comes up with a campaign that latches on to the victim mentality so prevalent within contemporary society. No doubt we will need counsellors to watch over us in case we come upon some metaphor that raises traumas from our past. Personal guides will, no doubt, be on hand to determine which genre would suit our lifestyle.

    Reading is something that is a part of us. Though social scientists might have us believe that all human activity can be reduced to a formula that, thankfully, isn’t the case. Some people do not want to read as a pastime, in the same sense that some people do not go to the opera or the ballet or the latest exhibition at The Tate.

    It isn’t any reflection on their intelligence. Incredible as it may seem: some people do not find stimulation in literature; neither Classical nor Contemporary. So why should we readers feel the need to force our values on everyone else?

    If people want to read then let them find out for themselves. One of the greatest joys in life is experimenting and finding new writers, composers, artists. Why is it necessary to take that away from people?

    Whatever Horner’s intention, this sort of campaign is patronising and elitist as well as taking away the uniqueness of the pleasure of any reading experience. If a person is made to feel that their life is lacking because they do not read literature or poetry, then reading becomes a necessity rather than the luxury it is; it becomes a duty rather than a pleasure.

    I love literature and am overjoyed when I meet others who share the same interest. I particularly get a kick out of reading works that people recommend or when I have read a critique of a particular work. For me that voyage of discovery is something that I take myself. It is not something that I am made to feel that I should be doing, it is simply the recognition that reading is a pleasure for me. I’m sure there are many others who feel the same. So why is it so important to take that pleasure away from us and turn reading into just another think to be ticked-off the to-do list?

    This campaign can only do harm to the many pleasures of reading. It can only reduce reading to some mundane experience. I hope The Reader and others will see it for what it is: another attempt to uniform our lives.

  2. I think this is an over-reaction on the part of The Reader. After all, we commonly use expressions that it is POSSIBLE to link to addiction and amusingly the comment above refers to getting a ‘kick’ in true Cole Porter fashion but we know that the reference isn’t to drugs even though poor, clever Mr.Porter was reduced to censoring his brilliance because of pc silliness (ruining his rhyme in the process).

    I wonder if this is perhaps evidence of the well-intentioned therapeutic work your organisation does blurring your vision on a fairly innocuous usage of what are very familiar terms? I do not truly believe that most will deem this campaign as seriously negative in the terms you suggest and isn’t censorship and the ‘nanny-state’ worse? It goes against every artistic ideal as far as I am concerned.

    These are JUST slogans, much like your own ‘building a revolution’ – I mean, you don’t REALLY see yourselves as revolutionaries in a pejorative sense, do you?

    Lighten up, guys!

    ‘My name is Sue and I’m a WORKaholic’ …

  3. p.s. Helen Fraser, MD of Penguin is on record as saying:

    “I thought it was the outstanding message mainly because those of us who have worked with books know how incredibly addictive they are and also how pleasurable.”

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