Death and the Penguin (published by Penguin, annoyingly!)

Updated: Sep 3

There is so much so wrong about this statement from the commissioning editor at Penguin Press on the news of the publication of the collected speeches (plus family memoir), of Greta Thurnberg:

“Greta…calls for change at the highest level—and because her message is so urgent, and so essential, we are working to make it available to as many readers as we can, as quickly as we possibly can. This little book will document an extraordinary, unprecedented moment in our history, and invite you to join in the fight for climate justice: to wake up, spread the word, and make a difference.”

Firstly, Greta is not ‘inviting’ anyone – that is ridiculous, lazy, sales speak – she is compelling them, imploring them, begging them even. This is a girl who sees that her future has been sold by most of us, the older generation, but particularly by big businesses with Penguin not exempt, no matter how seemingly admirable their current policy on sustainability is (see here for that policy). And this policy is not quite Greta standard. I think she would be rather annoyed that their international sales force is flying throughout Europe selling the book! And that there is still far too high a carbon footprint from production and distribution. Yes, it is being reduced, as you can see in the data, but it is still far too high.

But doesn’t Penguin’s statement make it sound like a very heroic thing they are doing, rushing the book out, and pricing it at only £2.99? The book though, as far as I can garner from The Bookseller, was won at auction – so not cheap. Its unit cost would be around £0.80 at most – so there is plenty of room for profit. It would be simple to rush off – as the speeches are short and already written. And whilst, impeccably as ever, Ms Thurnberg and family are giving all their earnings from the books to charity, Penguin and any agents are probably not. Yes, Penguin is a commercial publisher but as, in their own words, the message is urgent and essential, shouldn’t they make an exception here, if they are serious? Give all their proceeds to charity too?

On top of it all, who will this book reach that isn’t already aware? Greta will do a better job of reaching more people than Penguin can through traditional means. And will it be worth it? The speeches are already ‘available’ – on YouTube! Printing them in book form to limited distribution is just adding another layer of carbon production, and the interest of the speeches is mainly the delivery rather than the content – seeing the concern and anger from a girl who fears for her future is the jolt that will wake up those that are still ignorant. Penguin are not all powerful - this book won’t ‘spread the word’. They have published others (Mark Crocker, Robert Macfarlane) who have been trying to do that for years, largely ignored, until recently perhaps.

They are rushing out a book about Extinction Rebellion too! Save me! Save US! Ignore Penguin who, with the speeches, are publishing rehashed material and exploiting the desperate action being undertaken to save our planet! The only way they can make this credible is by giving all profit to climate change activism itself!


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