April 23 was World Book Night U.S. giveaway. Over 1 million books were given out for FREE on one night, and Matt and I were one of a select number of volunteer distributors chosen to hand out 20 of our favorite books....again...for FREE! Here are our stories:
This month’s mission marks the 2nd year that Chris and I participated in World Book Night. The goal of WBN is simple, if not totally understood: hand out half-a-million books. I say it’s not totally understood because we got a lot of questions and suspicious looks this year; more on that later.
Last year we had an approved location to hand out the books, and it went over really well. This year we decided to wing it, as we headed out into nearby restaurants and stores with our books. I had chosen my favorite children’s book, The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, and Chris had Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. The list of books this year was impressive, and it was hard to choose just one to give out. With two of us handing out books, people were able to choose which one they wanted.There was a lot of interest in the books, but more interest in why we were handing out free books. Several people at McDonald’s asked me if they had to sign something. I found that it wasn’t too hard to convince people, since we really didn’t have an ulterior motive. Aside from one guy at Fazoli’s, no one turned us down unless they had already read both books.
The WBN organization wants you to target light readers. I think we did a better job of this last year (reading takes a backseat to finding shelter, food, and water), as many people we talked to said that they were book lovers. The thing about book lovers is that they love to get free books. They ended up being the most excited about what we were doing, but I was more intrigued by the people who reluctantly agreed to take one. I wish I could find out if they ended up reading the books, and how it affected them. The thing is, I know how powerful books can be, and it’s nice to think that some of these recipients had a good experience with a book they may have never read otherwise.
I’d say this year’s WBN was another success, and I’m already looking forward to the next one!Chris' version:
I had a wonderful time handing out books at random establishments. Since we weren’t going to be sitting at a table with a clearly defined purpose like last year, we needed something to put people at ease when we approached them. We didn’t want people to feel put-out, harassed, solicited, or just awkward. We created our own I.D.s and lanyards that made us look all ‘officially’, and tried to match our outfits to look casual-phenomenal (black shirts and jeans). We grabbed a mixed stack of about 5 books each, and headed out.
First we went to Fazolies…to eat, naturally. We scoped out the place, and by the time I came back from a potty-break, Matt had already broken the ice at a nearby table, and made a family very happy by giving them one of each book. Seeing the smiles on their faces, and the ongoing conversation between Matt and them, helped to encourage me to remember that what we’re doing is really cool, and could bring more smiles than raised eyebrows. We handed out a few more in Fazolies, and proceeded to distribute the rest of the books in Taco Bell, Deals, Blockbuster, Subway, and McDonald’s. My greeting was, “Excuse me, did you know this is World Book Night?” (No.) “Well, over a million classic and bestselling books are being given away across the U.S. tonight, and we were selected to be World Book Night distributors!” (A smile comes across their face.) “Would you be interested in either of these titles?” (They ask questions about the titles, and end up taking one with a ‘Thank you so much.’) “Enjoy!” And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how it is done. Put THAT in your Kindle and read it!
Even though the rain was coming down hard that evening, we covered our books with our shirts and ran into establishments where people were looking for bargains and low prices…who better to offer something free to? And they were truly excited to receive these gifts. I must have encountered more people than Matt who didn’t seem to be regular readers, and were undefensive about our approach. It was fun to watch people look askance at the books, ask questions about the stories, and slowly grow persuaded that they wanted to read it. I felt like I talked a lot of people into reading these awesome stories that still have a powerful message for our time.
Overall, a fun and adventurous night. And then, to top it all off, we went to watch the movie Oblivion on the mega-screen. A movie after books is, I imagine, a lot like a cigarette after sex. Love me a little sweet desert of Tom Cruise after a hard night in the rain. Wait, none of that sounded right. Can’t go back. Must…go…on.