Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Maybe Harris Should Drink Some Costa Coffee?

What is more important and best for books, a group of intellectuals sitting round a table, or on a couch, talking about a book, or a good adaptation on film which clearly references the works, or a short story competition that stimulates thousands?

Best-selling author and chairman of the Costa Book Awards judging panel, Robert Harris, obviously thinks the couch and in announcing the £30,000 Costa Book of the Year, used his speech to criticise the BBC and its approach to books. He yearned back to the good old days when audiences grappled with Robert Robertson and Melvyn Bragg, often pontificated about the plot and characters in books. Days when authors sat on couches in the limelight and long and obscure words were more frequent than on Countdown.

There have been significant successes and at its peak Richard and Judy made respectable numbers. Oprah made a huge impact in the US. BBC at both national and local radio levels often promotes books through its programming and even with dedicated slots such as on the Simon Mayo show. When publishers promotion and marketing works, slots on prime time are available through the likes of the One Show, but there has to be something more than just another story. One only has to look at the huge appeal of crime, mystery and thrillers on TV and correlate this to the cult type following some authors of this genre now have.

However the corporation does not have an obligation to provide shows just to promote authors and books perched on a couch. Some would suggest that on the night, Harris, was merely playing to his publishing industry audience, others that he is sadly out of touch. 

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