Here at Writer Beware, we tend to concentrate on the dark side of publishing. Every now and then, though, it's nice to take a look at people who are doing something good. To that end, here are a couple of organizations you might want to check out.
Reader to Reader is a public charity that collects and donates books to needy school libraries in the USA, free of charge, with a special focus on schools in inner cities, rural towns, and Indian reservations. Reader to Reader serves more than 240 schools in 29 states, and has collected and donated millions of books since its startup. Recent initiatives include the Hurricane Katrina Book Drive, which so far has resulted in the shipping of over one million books and textbooks to rebuild libraries in hurricane-devastated southern states, and a collaboration with Starbucks stores in Western Massachusetts to launch a holiday book drive.
I know about Reader to Reader personally, because it's located just a few blocks away from me in Amherst, Mass. I donate all the books I get for review; last year, I also donated most of the hundreds of books I received as a World Fantasy Awards judge. Though the books go to school libraries, donations don't have to be confined to books for children or young adults--all books are welcome, and if Reader to Reader founder David Mazor doesn't feel a specific book is suitable for his program, he'll find a way to donate it somewhere else.
I talk with David whenever I stop by to make a donation. He and his volunteer staff work incredibly hard at what they do, and are passionate about making a difference. Reader to Reader is a truly worthy cause, with an impact that belies its shoestring budget. Information on how to donate is here. Unlike some other library donation groups, Reader to Reader will accept used books (though they should be in good condition) as well as new ones.
Eco-Libris is a brand-new green business that seeks to combine the love of reading with environmentalism. The idea is to let readers balance out the paper used for the books they read by planting trees. The website explains: "All you have to do is to choose how many books you want to balance out with Eco-Libris, pay for it online, and a tree will be planted for each of these books." In return, you get stickers (printed on recycled paper) to put on the covers of the books you balance out, in order to "show your commitment to sustainability and responsible use of natural resources." Each tree costs just $1.
Even if you don't want to plaster your books with stickers, the basic idea is pretty nifty. Eco-Libris concentrates on regions where deforestation is a critical problem (such as Panama and Guatemala), and to plant the trees, they've partnered with several established non-profit organizations that work with local communities in developing countries. They're also looking to build collaborations with book-oriented businesses--publishers, bookstores, book clubs.
Eco-Libris pleges that trees will be planted within six months to a year of your donation (planting cycles are dependent on the seasons and local weather conditions). To monitor progress and accountability, it will publish a full annual assessment of its planting projects on its website.