We all know that the biggest return on a book is sometimes had by giving it away. This is something we think about in different ways. When a publisher sends me a free finished copy of a book I always provide it the courtesy of reading any accompanying letter carefully and taking a close look at the book. If a giveaway promotional item strikes me as particularly creative and apropos we make sure to carry out its prime function: give it away to customers.
As a bookseller I always try and be mindful of recognizing when a meaningful moment to give something away presents itself. For example, after a classroom ARC review project I don’t normally leave the ARCs in the classroom. Last year, however, one student was so taken with a particular book that it was very striking. The teacher tried to assure him that a library might have a copy when it came into print. It hit me that there was no possibility, in this boy’s life, that he would be able to buy it. I slipped it to him and the teacher later told me that, though she couldn’t get into the details of his home life, it had meant the world to him. Not all giveaways are created equal. Nor is there any formula for recognizing the important ones other than learning from examples encountered in the course of experience.
It is just such an example I wanted to share with you. I had worked closely with an elementary school recently to provide books for a new resource center at their school library. The new center has been a big success and I hadn’t given much thought to the fate of the older materials that had been replaced. The reading specialist had, however. Rather than having a book sale or donating them somewhere else she simply put them in boxes in the school hallway along with a big sign that read “Free Books!! Take As Many As You Want!” You can see some scenes from the hallway below.
This simple, elegant idea was a perfect example of getting the most for something by giving it away. The children were absolutely delighted. It was a scene of happy chaos and book love. No better way of giving these books a splendid retirement could possibly have been devised. That’s just what a school is supposed to do for us. Teach us something.