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By Gabe Habash
This past weekend, James Patterson took out ads on the cover of PW, in The New York Times Book Review, and in Kirkus asking the questions "Who will save our books? Our bookstores? Our libraries?" and listing a number of classic books like The Sound and the Fury and A Wrinkle in Time. PW spoke with Patterson by phone to find out his motivation for placing the ads.
"This is hopefully starting a dialogue," Patterson said. "I hate sitting around and talking; I like to do things." Specifically, Patterson expressed frustration at the lack of advancement of the future of books discussion. The discussion, Patterson said, is stuck in a rut and there are ways everyone can chip in to fix it. "Publishers are sitting around saying: 'Woe is me.' Get in attack mode," Patterson said. The problem continues with media coverage, as Patterson said the same article about the book business being in trouble--with little information beyond that and little mention of possible solutions--is being written over and over. "That article is not worth running," he said. "The New York Times needs to wake [up]."
Patterson has long been a fierce supporter of children's literacy and reading in general. Just this week, he appeared at Ann Patchett's Parnassus Books in Nashville for World Book Night (an event he also co-chaired). Later this week, he will appear on a national online webcast called "One on One: Fundamentals with Dwyane Wade and James Patterson," an event with the NBA star to promote the importance of reading to children. Last year he donated hundreds of thousands of books to troops around the world; in 2009, he launched children's reading promotion site ReadKiddoRead.
In part, Patterson's current ad reads: "The Federal Government has stepped in to save banks, and the automobile industry, but where are they on the important subject of books? Why are there no impassioned editorials in influential newspapers or magazines?" The PW ad closed by stating: "Spread the word about our endangered books! Peel off this wraparound cover and share it with a friend or post it at your local bookstore or library."
In talking with PW, he expressed his hope that all of those that control the conversation--whether it be government, publishers, media, or Web sites--turn it in a more specific and practical direction. "All I can do is stir the pot a little bit," he said.