Next To Me
Cool For Cats
Huey Lewis & The News
The Power Of Love
Martin Wainwright, Friday 13th July 2012 10:00
You shrink from leaping on to a media bandwagon, but this seems to be an unexpectedly good cause. The headline-making novel Fifty Shades of Grey is doing what years of good-hearted effort have struggled to achieve: encouraging people who normally have little to do with books, to read them.
And to use their local libraries which, for all the occasional bright spot such as York's new Reading Cafe in Rowntree Park which the Guardian Northerner highlighted yesterday, are at risk from the public spending cuts. Hartlepool is an example. Our colleagues at North News have sent a despatch on how E.L.James' novel and its successors are bringing borrowers in.
Extra copies of the book have been ordered and reading time for each loan reduced in a way which the Teesside town has not seen since the heyday of J.K.Rowling's Harry Potter series.
In parenthesis, I like this practice of using initials rather than full first names, if only because it reminds me of two great former Guardian colleagues, W.L.Webb the long-serving books editor, and W.J.Weatherby who was also a literary type.
Here is the data, to cement the Northerner's growing reputation as the place to find small but interesting statistics, as per the debate led by our political commentator Ed Jacobs on the north and the Olympics which is worth following here, here, here and here. Hartlepool borough council's library service has nine copies of the original title, four more on order and 23 people on the waiting list. Loans have been cut from a maximum of four weeks to a fortnight.
There are already six copies of James' follow-up title Fifty Shades Darker, with three people on the waiting list, and four of the last book, Fifty Shades Freed, with another four Hartlepudlians waiting for that. Not yet an avalanche for those sequels but the rate is growing and reports from the book-stamping counters suggest that this is only the beginning.
Denise Sparrowhawk, who is stock and reader development librarian for Hartlepool, says:
We don't normally get such interest for someone's first book, although it happens for established authors whose fans are waiting for the latest work to come out. The most comparable thing to it is Harry Potter. People generally read them in a week or two, but if they don't have to bring them back they don't.
This one has been on television and radio a lot and I understand the author has been on breakfast TV and on chat shows so it has caught peoples' attention. It has been pushed into the limelight and it has got people reading who didn't normally read, so that must be a good thing.
Multiply this by the number of UK library services and we can all derive a certain amount of joy, not just E.L.James.