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July 1, 2004


There痴 No Such Thing as a Free Book

Today痴 print edition of the New York Times carried a very exciting full-page advertisement for the 敵reat Summer Read� Program. Starting July 12, the Times will serialize a book a week for four weeks as an in-paper giveaway: The Great Gatsby, Breakfast at Tiffany痴, Like Water for Chocolate, and The Color of Water.

展hat better way to bring our diverse city together than by offering readers the opportunity to 'gather' around a great book," said Alyse Myers, Times vice president of marketing services. "As a newspaper, we are a natural advocate for fostering literacy and a passion for reading. To advance these causes, we decided to revive the old tradition of serializing books and to offer them free, with the daily newspaper -- for the whole city to enjoy."

Free books! It sounds too good to be true! Well, that's kind of because it is. Only the first chapter of each novel will be available online; otherwise the insert is available only to those who buy the print edition. And, since the serial runs seven consecutive days, folks who may perhaps have a weekday-only subscription (ahem) will need to shell out for both weekend papers to find out who comes to Gatsby痴 funeral.

Altruism? Community service? It seems more to me like the circulation department finally realized that people are reading the Sunday magazine on their monitors instead of curled up on the couch. Now, I love reading my hard copy during the week, but a girl on a budget can稚 be expected to pay those Sunday prices week after week. By the time you buy seven issues, you致e spent around $10 on a book you could pick up used for $1 on any street corner.

While I知 at it, let me get my two cents in about these book selections. Overall, I applaud the idea of serializing classics both old and new, but�

People. I'm with you on three out of four, but if you wanted a novel by a Latina, why didn稚 you just ask me? Like Water for Chocolate is a lovely book, but the other three all deal with different lives in different periods of New York's history. How about How the Garcia Girls Lost their Accents? Or When I was Puerto Rican? Or Dreaming in Cuban? Or if you just needed a woman of color, what about Breath, Eyes, Memory? New York's literary community is as rich and diverse as the city itself, and although I would never argue the appeal and greatness of a Gatsby or a Tiffany痴, why not use this opportunity to showcase some more diverse talents?

Now, I don't want to sound entirely down on this project, because I'm all for getting people to read more. And the Times will also be sponsoring readings and panels through the summer as part of a larger initiative. But seriously, New York Times Community Affairs Department, give me a call next time you're going to plan something like this. I知 right around the corner and my consulting fees are very reasonable.

categories: Books, Business, Media, NYC
posted by Emily at 5:24 PM | #