Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Age-branding - more pros and cons

The age-branding debate is still bubbling away. Here are some more bloggers who've joined the fray:

Table Talk

Books, Mud and Compost


Emma at Snowbooks

An afterthought on Fidra, wondering about the silence on the issue from a certain JKR.

Also see the dozens of interesting comments onthe Telegraph's piece

Jean Hannah Edelstein on the Guardian blog - again, worth a look at the dozens of comments from both camps (including a couple from Meg Rosoff, who is vehemently pro age-branding - or at least vehemently anti the anti-branding protesters!)

By far the most important contribution I've seen today, however, is Catherine's long, impassioned, thought-provoking and persuasive argument on Juxtabook in favour of some form of age-branding. It's a message from the coalface - from someone who's worked with children for whom books play no part in their home or family life. Is this whole debate simply about middle-class children and their reading, she suggests. And while writers, editors, librarians, readers and middle-class parents are all adding their names to the petition in droves, where, asks Catherine, are the voices of the teachers in all this? It's excellent stuff -and I would urge everyone who's interested in this issue to read it.

One small response to Catherine's piece which springs to mind is that bookshops, libraries, the ELC shops, and even supermarkets, all shelve children's fiction in broad age categories anyway. Some more specifically than others, but there is usually some clear indication, so that the most bored and uninterested Saturday assistant can point and say 'over there' in a rough approximation of 'help' for the frightened once-a-year book buyer.

But this kind of broad guidance isn't the same as a publisher printing a million stickers and then trying to squeeze each of their children's books into a single age-banded category in a formulaic fashion. I can't help seeing Catherine's boys who only wanted 'boys' books' (presumably because they needed to reinforce their view of themselves as tough and non-girly) as the other side of the coin from the hesitant reader aged 10 who doesn't want to be seen reading a book with an 'age 6 to 8' sticker on it.

And we keep using the word 'stickers', but I'm sure we've all encountered those dreaded 'stickers' which turn out to be printed on the covers (I'll mention no names but the letters R and J spring to mind) because how much more economical that is for the publishers, in the long run, than paying for the additional palaver of applying stickers to existing books. If 'stickering' goes ahead on what's in the warehouses now, then come the reprints it'll be non-removable, non-optional, printed flashes on covers.

And it is that to which the authors who are heading up this campaign are so adamantly opposed, because it's the thin end of a very fat and festering wedge.


Anyway, this is all most exhausting and I'm off now in search of the corkscrew and a good book. On a lighter bookish note - Legend Press are conducting a survey of fiction reading habits in the UK . I suspect that the results will show 'reading habits of bookbloggers and existing purchasers of Legend Press books', and thus be somewhat skewed, but hey, they've asked for our input, so we may as well spill the beans (it's not very complicated and takes about 1 minute to complete).

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