Random House has partnered with advertising agency BMF on a new book donation campaign, which involves specially designed dust jackets doubling as pre-paid envelopes.
The idea behind the campaign is that once a reader has finished reading one of the campaign’s titles, the dust jacket can be removed, turned inside out and used as a pre-paid envelope, allowing the book to be sent to a charity for redistribution. The process is demonstrated in a video here.
Random House’s business development executive Holly Toohey told Books+Publishing that the Mailbooks for Good campaign was the brainchild of BMF, which ‘has a strong focus on creating innovative passion projects’, and that Random House was ‘more than keen to come on board as the book partner and were able to assist in the production, book selection and launch into market’.
The books selected for the launch of the campaign are: The Fix by Nick Earls, Wanting by Richard Flanagan, And Now for Some Light Relief by Peter FitzSimons, Crack Hardy by Stephen Dando-Collins and Bureau of Mysteries by H J Harper.
The first beneficiary of the campaign is the charity the Footpath Library, which supplies books to the homeless and disadvantaged members of society. Sydney independent bookseller Gleebooks, ‘a long-time supporter of the Footpath Library’, was chosen for the campaign’s retail launch, with further bookselling partners to follow.
Toohey said Random House worked closely with the Footpath Library to select a diverse range of titles to appeal to ‘a variety of age groups and demographics’, and that ‘using Australian authors in the launch was also a focus’. ‘Down the track we would obviously like to expand the selection of books available,’ she said.
For the launch range, ‘our focus wasn’t on the costs, rather it was on getting the product into market and spreading the Mailbooks for Good idea’, said Toohey. ‘Now that it is out there and with the positive responses we have received, we are working with our partners to find the best and most economical way to release the product on a larger scale.’
The campaign is being promoted through a BMF-designed Mailbooks for Good website, however, Toohey said most of the promotion for the campaign has ‘come from great word of mouth and the power of blogs’. ‘In just over a week we have seen reviews and articles appear on websites all over the world, which is something we had hoped but could never be sure would happen,’ she said. The campaign has recently been covered in the Huffington Post.
In choosing the Footpath Library as the launch charity, Toohey said one of the issues the campaign was trying to overcome was the poor condition in which donated books sometimes arrived. ‘Yes, books can brighten your day, but if they look horrible and are falling apart they can have the opposite effect,’ said Toohey. ‘Great books continue to be one of the most popular and welcomed gifts today and giving quality books to people who don’t generally have access to reading material is a fantastic way to increase their sense of self-worth and give them a more positive perspective on life.’
Toohey said the campaign also has benefits for Random House and participating retailers. ‘Mailbooks for Good is a great opportunity to get more people into bookstores, to promote backlist titles and above all to engender and spread the love of reading!’
‘Ideally we would like to see a Mailbooks for Good stand in every book retailer (and also some non-book retailers) in Australia,’ said Toohey. ‘We also think that the program offers a great opportunity for corporate Australia to get involved by purchasing Mailbooks for their staff or to give directly to The Footpath Library. The interest from overseas has been beyond what we ever expected, so all things working out, there's no reason why Mailbooks won't be available to literacy organisations and retailers all over the world.’