Apparently the UK "Quick Reads" initiative is in danger of ending after this year due to lack of support from some publishers and interest from the public. The next batch of eight titles (short novels, price £1.99 each) will be published on World Book Day (1 March), accompanied by a BBC dramatisation of The Grey Man by Andy McNab, one of last year's books.
Quick Reads are short books written in simple language, aimed at people who don't usually read books at all. According to the Bookseller, some publishers have been reluctant to support the initiative on the grounds that there are no "semi mythical reluctant readers", given the plethora of celebrity biographies et al. Even so, about one-third of the UK population is estimated never to read a book, lacking basic literacy skills or just not interested. The Bookseller opines that the first two years of the programme missed a few opportunities by a "slightly patronising" generic approach, weak covers and including some authors "who don't command real consumer recognition".
This year's batch includes media names such as Kerry Katona, John Simpson, "Dr Who" and Ricky Tomlinson. As last year, the Sun is a partner in selling these books and the programme, and lots of organisations are working "beneath the radar" to try to capture these hundreds of thousands of potential new readers.
The Bookseller believes that publishers and retailers should back the initiative with money and long-term support. It does not opine as to the long-term goals of the programme. Is the idea to persuade these non-readers to read 10 short books every year and that's that? Or for these books to be a platform to encourage readers to attempt a "full length" work? Why is it considered a "good thing" for someone to read a short book by "Dr Who" or other TV celebrity rather than do something else? The Quick Read programme does raise rather more questions in my mind than it answers.