Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp going down gave me an epiphany and I picked up a book - Anthony Clavane

Anthony Clavane, whose column is published every Friday.

Picture: Niall Carson/PA.

So, how was it for you? How did you cope? No, I’m not talking about the fuel crisis, panic buying and the army moving in to deliver petrol.

I’m talking about Facebook going down for around six hours on Monday. Not just Facebook, but Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp too. Ye gods!

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

At least it will be a good tale to tell the grandchildren. What did you do during the Great Facebook Outage Crisis of 2021, gramps?

Well, here’s the thing. I read a book.

I do not want to minimise the impact on social media users of the loss of these digital services. It affected businesses, family communications and stopped people (shopaholics, please look away now) logging on to shopping websites.

But I feel obliged to reassure you that there is life without Facebook.

If truth be told, it needs to go down more often. Sure, loads of people turned to other platforms, like Twitter, LinkedIn and Zoom.

But loads of people – like me – actually caught up on their reading.

As a result of Facebook’s entire family of apps being plunged into darkness, that old-fashioned impulse to pick up a good book was resurrected.

The Great Facebook Outage Crisis of 2021 made me realise that I spend far too much time scrolling through social media sites.

I was not the only one to experience an epiphany. According to newspaper reports, the lengthy disruption triggered a surge in reading. It also triggered a surge in cleaning, ironing and carrying out other such household chores.

Admittedly, my first thought on failing to login was not to get out the hoover. It was to finish off one of the three books I’ve got on the go.

Which is why we should be celebrating a big day coming up in the UK publishing calendar: Super Thursday.

I really hope that, in six days time, Mark Zuckerberg does the decent thing and puts his baby to sleep for a few hours. For, on Thursday October 14, 300 new hardback titles will be published.

Autumn is the busiest time of the year for books.

The good news is that lockdown began to reverse a downward trend.

As Stephen Lotinga, chief executive of the Publishers Association, pointed out: “People were looking for some comfort, escapism and entertainment during lockdown. And without having to do that daily commute, we had more time to sit down with a good book.”

On the face it, 300 hardbacks is an impressive figure. But this compares with an annual average of 445 new releases on the main publication day during the previous decade. The pandemic has got publishers rattled.

Big name celebrities will dominate Super Thursday. The likes of Michael McIntyre, the Hairy Bikers and Gordon Ramsay will be touting their wares.

Which is why I have some sympathy with one magazine editor’s refusal to review Richard Osman’s new bestseller The Man Who Died Twice, which sold 114,202 copies on its first three days.

According to Ed Needham, founder of Strong Words, readers should be encouraged to discover new titles; they should not fall for the “illusion (that) there are only two books on sale – Richard Osman’s and Sally Rooney’s Beautiful World, Where Are You?”

I have nothing against the amiable Osman. I enjoy watching Pointless, which he co-presents – although “pointless” seems a good word to describe his latest creation, Radio 4’s The Birthday Cake Game, where panellists guess the age of a celebrity who’s having a birthday that week.

And I really like Rooney’s writing. I loved her first two novels and can’t wait to buy Beautiful World.

But there is a real fear that talented debut novelists who have never starred in a TV comedy show, or appeared in a cookery programme, will slip through the net.

Read More

Read More
Meet Yorkshire's independent book publishers taking the big guns on at their own...

I’m all in favour of boosting the industry on Super Thursday. As long as it’s not at the cost of undermining new, original authors.