We used to have a neighbor who was a well-known writer and I remember how his wife would seethe every time someone said "His book is in the library" or "I'll lend you my copy." So it was with a wee bit of guilt that I admitted a few weeks ago that I actually gave away books, knowing I was stiffing fellow writers out of the 10 percent royalty they worked so hard for.
I was relieved to get about a dozen emails from people who love to pass along books, to friends, Veterans hospitals, and charities. But the best response came from Leslie Price-Bennett, marketing director of PaperBackSwap, an Internet book-swapping club founded three years ago in Suwanee.
"You take all those books you have finished and are ready to give away and post them on the site. If someone requests one of your books you mail it to them and then receive a credit with which you can choose something else for yourself," Price-Bennett wrote. "Currently we have over 5,000,000 books posted on the site, along with book reviews, games, discussion forums, blogs and award winning book lists."
But wait, there's more. In addition to the five million free used books, the company offers great discounts on new books as well, which Price-Bennett said can be really helpful for teachers seeking class sets or charities looking for fundraisers.
PaperBackSwap does more than provide a book exchange among readers. In the spring, through their United Through Reading project, they send children's books to deployed troops, record the soldiers reading the books, and then send the recordings back home to their kids. In only two years, PaperBackSwap has provided more than 15,000 audio books to kids whose parents serve our country.
Their biggest project, Price-Bennett said is their Books for Schools program. Members nominate schools and then donate their credits to buy new books for children in need. This year a total of 25,000 books were delivered to 27 schools all over the country.
"It's so gratifying to get notes from kids telling us how much they appreciate getting books from people who don't even know them," Price-Bennett said. "We have some amazing stories. One of our schools in Alaska is so isolated people actually have to get on a plane to get to a library."
Those students, I read, are all on free lunch and live 500 miles from the nearest bookstore. For most, this was the first book they'd ever owned.
I'll continue to buy new books, of course, and I'll purchase as many as I can from PaperBackSwap.com. But my new mantra -- with no guilt attached -- will be "Pass it on."
I was encouraged even more by an email from a grade school friend, Larry Campbell, who wrote "Honesty and Integrity" a few years ago.
"If you gave my book to another I feel privileged that another soul gets to (I hope) enjoy it," he wrote.
Thanks, Larry. I already did.
Susan Larson is a writer who lives in Lilburn. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.