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Dr. Karel Jan Alsem: 'Book Week should concentrate more on younger readers'

11 March 2008
Karel Jan Alsem
Karel Jan Alsem

This year, the theme of Book Week is old age. Between 12 and 22 March, you won’t be able to enter a bookshop without being aware of the book world’s week of celebrations. Book Week is definitely a strong brand, thinks Karel Jan Alsem, university lecturer in Marketing at the Faculty. ‘But if they want to keep their strong position in the future, they’re going to have to increase their efforts to reach younger readers.’

Of course this does not mean that Book Week has to be organized in a radically different way, states Alsem. ‘But the CPNB (who organizes Book Week) would be wise to organize more events that appeal to younger people. If they don’t, then the risk that the Book Week brand will “fossilize” will significantly increase.’

Breathe new life into it

No matter how strong and respectable the brand, it needs to have new life breathed into it regularly. Book Week is generally known by those with a higher level of education and singles, but is barely known by the generation up to the age of thirty, as revealed by research conducted two years ago. Alsem: ‘What’s actually happening to Book Week is what’s happening to the museum weekend. That weekend is really popular with the people who already go to museums, but hardly any newcomers turn up.’ 

Respond to presents

Young people have a completely different way of consuming information than the generations before them. Everything is becoming more dynamic and rapid and the media used are completely different. Their norms and values haven’t changed much, but the way they express them has. ‘The free “Book Week present” is naturally an important success factor’, thinks Alsem. ‘even for young people. People are very responsive to presents, so the free train journey that people can make with their Book Week present contributes to its popularity. That activity could be promoted much harder, though. Only being able to travel on one specific day is a bit limited.’

More and more competition

Brands are finding it increasingly difficult to keep in the public eye, Alsem has noticed. ‘People are busier and busier with their jobs and private lives and more and more commercial signals are shot at them. More and more weeks, for example, are being dubbed “the week of…”. The competition for Book Week is thus increasing.’ Alsem: ‘Last year it looked like the CPNB had finally realised that they should concentrate more on young people. They introduced a “movel”, a book on your mobile, that you could buy at a discount during Book Week. Personally, I have my doubts about whether reading from such a tiny screen will be a success; I think the new wireless reading device from Amazon, the Kindle, is much more likely to be successful. But they are going to have to do much more to capitalize on that type of promotion and let themselves be guided by what actually appeals to young people.’

Curriculum Vitae

Karel Jan Alsem (1957) studied Business Economics at the University of Groningen. Between 1981 and 1985 he was a researcher for the SEO (Economic Research Foundation) of the University of Amsterdam. From 1985 to 1991 he conducted PhD research at the University of Groningen: ‘Concurrentieanalyse in de marketing: theorie, technieken en toepassingen’ [Competition analysis in marketing: theory, techniques and applications]. In 1991 Alsem became a university lecturer at the Faculty of Economics and Business. He specialises in strategic brand management, marketing communication and marketing planning. Alsem is also a brand consultant.


Dr Karel Jan Alsem, tel. 06 403 66 447 or 050 363 36 86, e-mail:

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Last modified:31 January 2018 11.52 a.m.

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