Frequently and randomly I give away books on Twitter. I ask people what they want, they tell me, and I do my best to get the book(s) in the mail sometime in the next couple of days. I'd guess that in the last four months we've given away somewhere around 300 books. This piece at Pop Culture Nerd gave me a greater appreciation for how important books are to people and made me determined to do more.
Yesterday I announced that we were going to do an extended giveaway through the holiday season. I wanted to give people who can't really afford to buy holiday presents, but still want to participate in gift giving to let others know that they are loved and being thought about, to have a chance to do exactly that.
And for the first time, I asked for help from others. Strangers. Loose associates. Friends of the company. The Twitterverse (yes, I just used that phrase).
I let them know that I could use some help with the costs associated with the shipping and handling side of things. I wasn't sure how it was going to go, and I was prepared to deal with the consequences of crickets.
Nonscientifically speaking, this is what I found out -- people are awesome.
People who don't know whom they're helping, but don't care, will help. People who can afford to will help. And so will people who can't.
I understand that this approach to business will, no doubt, draw the wrath of people like the skepticholes (yes, I just invented that word) from this Forbes piece who would insist that I have allowed guilt to cloud my better business judgment with all of this giveaway nonsense (though, I'll be the first to admit that I am unsurprisingly not an American Billionaire -- the folks being addressed) . And that I have further guilted a bunch of people I only have a loose connection to to spend their hard-earned money to pay for shipping and handling. This is all, no doubt, some plot to spread socialism's unfair tentacles over the proud and legacied institution of American business, especially its publishing sector.
The fact is, I really believe in the value of books and reading. I believe in the talents and creativity of authors and the risks they take. I believe that every second lived is a second that shouldn't be wasted and that a lot of people draw great satisfaction from reading. I believe that when we can, we should make the world a better place. Call me whatever manner of pinko/hippie/slacker/idealist you feel is appropriate, but remember, I've got a near 200 bowling average, can sing along to David Allan Coe, installed carpet until my knees couldn't take it, and enjoy hanging out in rural America with regl'r folks.
I am regl'r folk.
I refuse to be disheartened by the divisiveness and celebration of greed. Let them Go Galt to their hideaway in the mountains. No address? No free books. I'm way too busy being blown away with the compassion and goodwill of people anyway.
The reward in my life isn't measured in dollars, it's knowing that I've made an honest attempt at making somebody's life better, no matter how brief the moment. Apparently, there are a lot of strangers who feel the same. Those strangers can take comfort in knowing that they've made my life better with the warmth they've shown towards others.
As one contributor, BC, says, "When we share a great story with others, I believe our worlds are enlarged -- we've made a connection, even if we never meet. It's a privilege and an honor to be able to help provide wonderful books to others."
Happy Holidays to all.
Follow Benjamin LeRoy on Twitter: www.twitter.com/TyrusBooks