Entertainment & Arts

James Patterson donates £250,000 to independent bookshops

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Media captionPatterson helps save independent bookshops

Best-selling author James Patterson is giving £250,000 to independent bookshops in the UK and Ireland to help boost literacy for young readers.

Independent bookshops with a dedicated children's book section can apply for a grant of between £250 and £5,000.

"Far too many children are in danger of living their lives without books," the US novelist said.

"This runs the risk of living in a world run by the short-sighted, by the empathy-challenged, and by the glib."

He added: "Bookshops are the most viable bulwark against this and I need to be part of the fight to ensure their survival."

The donation was announced ahead of Independent Booksellers Week, which begins on Saturday.

Patterson, best known for his Alex Cross series of books, made a $1m (£590,000) donation to US bookshops last September.

He is also giving 45,000 copies of his books to young readers to more than 300 schools in New York.

Warm welcome

Speaking to the BBC, Patterson called on booksellers to ensure that they made themselves welcoming to customers.

"It's important that everybody walking through a bookstore feels comfortable," he told BBC arts correspondent Rebecca Jones.

"A lot of people are afraid that someone is going to make them feel that they are not smart because they are not as aware of books as the person that runs the store.

"Anything a bookstore can do to get people past that is helpful."

Patterson's donations in the US have helped convert a school bus into a mobile bookshop and provide free books for underprivileged children.

The author said that one bookshop worker had even received a pay rise because his salary had not changed since 1988.

Store traffic

He said independent sellers needed to be "more aggressive" in their sales tactics.

"One of the things I would do is discount the top 10 bestselling fiction. If you increase your store traffic, ultimately those people are going to buy something other than the bestsellers."

According to The Booksellers Association, 67 independent bookshops closed in the UK in 2013, while 26 new shops opened.

The number of independent bookshop members has dropped to 987, down from 1028 the previous year.

Tim Godfray, of The Booksellers Association, said Patterson's donation would give bookshops "a chance to create new programmes, try out new ideas and use their creativity to encourage children to read".

The names of the first bookshops to have made successful bids will be announced in September.

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