Mailbooks For Good is a genius idea. Once you've finished a book, you unwrap the cover, fold it around the book, seal it, and put it in a mailbox, where it is sent directly to a deserving cause. The book costs about 10% more, to cover postage costs.
It's a creation of Australian ad agency BMF, and launched in a limited circulation through a local book chain last week through a deal with Random House Australia. The books were addressed to The Footpath Library, which "aims to make books more accessible to the homeless and disadvantaged members of our society." They're also making the design freely available for non-profits to adopt and use.
We sent some questions to one of Mailbooks For Good's creators Alex Caredes, the Director of Business Development at BMF, about how it works, and what the next steps are for the project.
How many copies have you printed with this cover?
The launch stage was really about establishing proof of concept, experimenting with the price point and gauging interest in the product. For launch we made five titles available:
Crack Hardy – Stephen Dando-Collins
Wanting - Richard Flanagan
And Now for Some Light Relief - Peter Fitzsimons
The Fix – Nick Earls
Bureau of Mysteries – H. J. Harper
We worked with Random House to select these titles with the aim of providing The Footpath Library beneficiaries with as a diverse range as possible.
We are going to make as many as we can, with the original goal of producing 10,000 by the end of this financial year. Though with the level of interest we've had in the first week alone, demand is clearly outstripping supply which is fantastically frightening. And because we are making the use of the patented design innovation free to all non-profit organizations, charitable organizations and literacy programs, there's no reason why Mailbooks won't be available all over the world by the end of 2013.
Do you know how many have so far been sent to the Footpath Library?
We really aren't sure how people are going to respond just yet as we're only a week in. Some people might buy the books and just drop them off in the post with a "that’s my good deed for the day" approach.
Others, and probably the more likely scenario, readers will take the time to finish the book and then send it on its way, which is just fine with us.
The issue we were trying to overcome wasn't just a lack of books being delivered to The Footpath Library, it was also the condition in which they arrived. Yes books can brighten your day, but if they look horrible and are falling apart they can have the opposite effect. Though in the back of our minds, we are hoping to get well over a 50% response rate.
How did you choose the Footpath Library?
BMF believes strongly in encouraging staff to create innovative passion projects beyond just the work we do for our existing commercial clients. The Footpath Library was identified by some of our staff as an outstanding organization that we'd love to help, and so we worked on developing a range of ideas that we thought would appeal to them. Mailbooks was one of these ideas. Figuring out the logistics, the prototyping, refining the design and the concept then took about six months.
Have you had interest from other countries/publishers?
We've had a lot of interest from other countries - the US, a handful from Europe and more locally throughout Asia. No other publishers yet, though we just are fine with that because Random House has been on this ride with us since the very beginning, and they've been great. It's not hard to see how much impact this could have in larger markets.
This interview was edited for publication.
H/t: Creative Review
See photos of Mailbooks For Good in action: