Connoisseurs of James Patterson’s grandstanding on behalf of the traditional book trade won’t be surprised to see this latest stunt. Patterson has now pledged to give $1 million of his own money to support independent bookstores in 2014. He appeared on CBS to announce the fact, in a segment subtitled “Man on a Mission,” ostensibly focused on saving lives – by encouraging kids to read – and saving bookshops.
Hailed in the Los Angeles Times as “the perennial bestseller and author of the Alex Cross novels,” Patterson has been here before – spending his own dough to defend a publishing and bookselling industry that, last time I checked, wasn’t exactly clamoring for his help. At least this time he isn’t trying to help out the publishing industry, which, as I wrote elsewhere, isn’t now doing that badly out of the digital revolution at all. Neither is Patterson himself, in all likelihood. “James Patterson has already sold more than 280 million books worldwide,” CBS pointed out. “He also holds the Guinness record for the most No. 1 New York Times best-sellers — 57 in all.”
To his credit, Patterson did speak out on behalf of child literacy in the U.S. “Be your kids’ friend, but you have to be their parent; and they have to read at home: The End,” he declared to America’s parents. No one could quarrel with that emphasis. But it was the second part of the segment that caught the headlines. “We’re going to give away $1 million over the next 12 months or so to independent bookstores,” he announced.
Although accepting the transition to ebooks, Patterson complained that “we’re not doing it in a organized, sane, civilized way.” Bookstores are closing, he continued, but also libraries are being closed or are no longer being funded. His donation, he said, “is going to help,” especially for bookstores with children’s sections. Otherwise, the segment at least was light on detail on how exactly the donation scheme would work. “James’s pledge to Booksellers,” on his website, gives a signup form for anyone wanting to receive information on the initiative. “James is pledging to help U.S. booksellers keep the life-changing reading habit alive and well in our local communities.”
Thanks, James. (You don’t mind if I call your by first name, do you?) And yes, I think it’s great of you to use all your money to help booksellers. After all, they were toiling all those years to fill your accounts: Time to give back a little. So nice that the big people think about the little guy every now and then. As you turn left when you get on the plane, I’m glad to see you’re flinging some notes over your shoulder. With this streak of philanthropy in you, at this rate they’ll be building monuments to you as the Andrew Carnegie or the John Pierpont Morgan of the printed page. And in America, money talks. Very, very loudly.