One book club It is made up of people who choose the same book to read it for a specific time, be it a month or a week, and with the express intention of getting together to discuss it. It is something as simple as it is extraordinary: people who choose this or that novel to dive into its pages and then share their impressions as a group.
In meetings of this type, the individual reading ends up becoming the sum of all. The author’s visit, when possible, completes the cycle: a new book is born. The writer finds more truth in the novel that others read than in the one he or she has written. The literary work is only complete when it is received by someone
A large part of publishers’ promotional efforts focus their sales strategy on these events. The readers’ clubs are the backbone of the policies to promote reading in regional and municipal public libraries. Bookstores also make use of this activity, which explains, to a large extent, why booksellers remain the main channel for buying books: more than places of sale, they are meeting places.
transcend the cultural
Anyone could think that the arrival of the coronavirus was the bolt and the grave for this type of act. On the contrary: it promoted and strengthened them. In 2019, 50% of Spaniards declared themselves weekly readers, a figure that during confinement increased to 57%, according to the study ‘The role of books and reading’, carried out by the Federation of Publishers Guilds of Spain.
Isolation brought many back to reading, but it imbued those who already practiced it even more. Hence the proliferation of clubs and digital meetings, through telematic platforms during the general confinement decreed from the State of Alarm. In addition to alleviating loneliness and confusion, the phenomenon fed the custom in those who did not have it, and strengthened it among those who already practiced it. Its participants and coordinators, as well as writers such as Irene Vallejo, Manuel Vilas or Lorenzo Silva, who have identified a clear feature, attest to this: “The pandemic strengthened people’s relationship with books”.
“It was, and still is now, an experience that transcends the cultural,” says Paloma González Rubio, a graduate in Semitic philology, writer, editor, translator and coordinator of one of the most important literary creation workshops in Soto del Real. “Sharing the experience of confinement and doing a group literary reading was not only enriching, but consoling.” Despite the fact that his is a specialized creation workshop, he shares the germ of the reading phenomenon that the pandemic caused: the need to read and share it.
go outside to read
Both Penguin Random House and Grupo Planeta have as one of their main promotion strategies the reading clubs. «The attendance returned before the sixth wave. Most of those that we organize in Madrid, Asturias or Andalusia took up that format and maintain it. Some preferred to remain online, but to a lesser extent”, explains Raquel Abad, head of Events and Cultural Alliances at Penguin Random House.
«At Planeta we have dealings with many bookstore and library reading clubs. They have normalized and are even about to reach their pre-pandemic number,” says Paco Barrera, from Planeta’s commercial area. «The most important are the annual meetings of all the reading clubs of the municipalities and provinces. One of the most important is celebrated in Albacete».
a successful model
The strongest arm of the reading clubs is manifested at the municipal and provincial level. The capillarity of the library system makes possible a more direct relationship between readers and authors. The iconic and most successful examples are located in Catalonia, Andalusia and Castile-La Mancha, in this last community stands out the case of Albacete, which today has 224 reading clubs, one of the most important provincial ratios within the community.
Of this total, 39.8% are aimed at children, 9.7% at young people and 50.46% at adults, mostly women over 60 years of age. Added to this are nine bookmobiles that run through the places with the worst access to libraries, and the most significant of its events: the regional meetings, which are more frequent, and the provincial meeting that takes place once a year with a prominent author. Parked after the pandemic, these meetings will be held again on May 26 with the writer María Dueñas. This will be followed by a new session, in June, with Carmen Mola. It is expected that 350 people will attend, according to the head of the Archives and Libraries section of the Provincial Council of Albacete, Javier Rosa.
«Since mid-autumn, reading clubs have been resumed by 90%. Was necessary. The confinement was a hard blow in rural areas. Our user profile is people over 65 years of age and many of these users, although they have overcome the vertigo of new technologies, need to meet again and libraries must be the place for that reunion”, explains Javier Rosa.