UK booksellers are being invited by the Booksellers Association to join in the Books Are My Bag campaign, leading up to a Big Bookshop Party and celebrity photocall on Sat., Sept. 14 that kicks off a series of events timetabled to last until Christmas.

Described as “the biggest ever promotion of bookshops … an unprecedented cross-trade promotion of books and bookshops,” the campaign urges local bookstores to liaise with local media, contact local authors and publishers, and otherwise come up with their own ideas to join in the excitement.

The iconic motif of the campaign is a bag with loud orange lettering, stating—yes, you guessed it—”Books Are My Bag.” (Presumably those bags are not to be used to hold Kindles or Nooks.) Declares the campaign introduction: “The Street Campaign uses your greatest asset—your customers—as a walking advertisement.” Participating booksellers will receive BAMB cotton bags as well as a free full Point of Sale Kit “designed to create a party/carnival atmosphere in the shop.”

What participating bookstores will not receive, apparently, is any guidance or material to promote the value of reading, literacy, literature, or learning. Such themes are conspicuously absent from the BAMB campaign material. “When you buy a book from a bookshop, you get a possession that you may well value for the rest of your life,” reads the promo literature. “You’ll have enjoyed the pleasure of browsing around a whole host of other books before making your choice. You’ll know how you feel about the book, by, well, feeling it. Reading bits of it…” The rest is about the same level.

One warning sign stands out straight off: “This campaign for bookshops is being driven by the country’s most iconic advertising agency, M&C Saatchi,” the campaign website proudly proclaims. (And for evidence of what damage PR agencies can do to other major UK institutions, see here.) This is the same agency c0-headed by Charles Saatchi, who has been making such delightful headlines of his own lately over an apparent public assault on his wife, celebrity cook Nigella Lawson.

In the circumstances, I would say that any tieup with M&C Saatchi should be hidden as a badge of shame, rather than trumpeted in the campaign material. It’s certainly not exactly great PR for the BA right now. With image gurus like this helping you out, who needs an arch-nemesis like Amazon?

I suppose all this proves that the situation of the UK book trade is desperate … but not serious. Now excuse me while I dive into a good book …



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