I was intrigued to read in the Independent recently that McDonald’s has teamed up with publisher HarperCollins and for the next couple of weeks will be giving away a children’s book, rather than a toy, with each Happy Meal. McDonald’s has bought a staggering 9 million copies of Michael Morpurgo’s Mudpuddle Farm series of books. Compare this 9 million with the 6.4 million children’s books sold in total in the UK last year, and you see just how major this development is for children’s publishing. My Morpurgo must be happy as a pig in mud!
Of course, the thinking behind the initiative is two-fold: to increase reading in children (essential; according to the Huffington Post one in three children in the UK don’t own a book!) and to push book sales. We all know that the high street book store is struggling since the growth of internet shopping, and the McDonalds–HarperCollins development got me thinking about other vehicles for selling books that could be developed. Science fiction given out with the purchase of a cinema ticket to see the latest Star Trek instalment? Literary fiction on sale in museums and art galleries? Sports books thrown into the purchase of a football match ticket? Medical and self-help books handed out by the NHS at hospitals and doctors’ practices?
My interest, of course, lies in romance novels. They’re uplifting, they’re comforting and they’re wonderful escapism. Wouldn’t it be great to see romance books sold or given away with a purchase in venues in which women are seeking escapism? For example, imagine a coffee shop with ambiance – squashy leather sofas, lamplight, jazz music, a view over a bustling street – offering a coffee, a slice of cake and a romance book. What better way to spend an hour or so? I think I’d be a regular customer to such an establishment.
And there are so many other avenues to explore. Romance novels side by side with lingerie and pamper products. In the foyers of couples’ getaway hotels. In the chocolate aisle of the supermarket. The possibilities are endless.
To my mind, integrating the arts more into everyday life can only be a positive move. We spend too much of our daily life embroiled in the mundane and humdrum – allow us more space for passion and escape and fantasy and that’s a recipe for an engaged, imaginative, creative, calm society.