Saying good-bye to World Book Night

I write this with a broken heart. As many of you have heard, World Book Night has suspended U.S. operations due to lack of funding.

My WBN 2014 choice was Kitchen Confidential.

My WBN 2014 choice was Kitchen Confidential.

After three years in which thousands and thousands of you distributed over a million and half specially printed World Book Night paperbacks across America, we are sad to announce that we are suspending operations. The expenses of running World Book Night U.S., even given the significant financial and time commitment from publishers, writers, booksellers, librarians, printers, distributors, shippers–and you, our amazing givers!–are too high to sustain.

I read the rest of the email in a state of shock. I have championed WBN for three years, as a giver, on social media, recruiting other givers, as a blogger, suggesting books and generally shouting from the rooftops. I loved being one of tens of thousands of volunteers spreading out across the country for the sole purpose of giving away half a million free books. What could be cooler than that?

Kathy and I in our WBN shirts. April 23, 2014.

Kathy and I in our WBN shirts. April 23, 2014.

But, and this is a big but, I didn’t put my money where my mouth is. As generous as I could be with my time and talent, I did not share my treasure. Shame on me.

Do I think my $25 or $50 or even $100 would have made a significant difference? Probably not, given the tone of WBN’s letter:

For three years, the publishing industry and book community have very generously footed the bill and contributed enormous time and effort, and we are so very grateful for all the support. We did receive some funds via individual donations, and we worked very hard to get grants. We did get some, but there are a lot of other worthy causes out there and only so much money available. We can’t carry on without significant, sustainable outside funding.

I don’t have the means to provide “significant, sustainable funding,” but I might have slept better last night if I knew I had done everything possible to make sure World Book Night survived. Instead, I wondered how we book lovers, collectively some of the most passionate people I’ve ever encountered, couldn’t rescue this sinking ship.

I don’t have any answers. I’ve worked in sales and/or fundraising for not-for-profits for much of my life and understand the obstacles. I give enormous amounts of credit to everyone at World Book Night and all of the publishing houses who worked together to grow this effort for the past three years. I sincerely hope that some organization or individual will be moved to step in and solve the immediate crisis so that this post will serve only as a cautionary tale.

As optimistic as I am, I don’t feel confident that will happen. So I am left with my memories. And they are awesome ones. I overcame my fears and talked to perfect strangers about books I love. I placed printed books in the hands of dozens of people, young and old, asking them to give a new title a chance. I take some comfort in knowing we all made a difference.WBN_passiton_300x250_020912

YOU, the givers, made it possible for WBN to reach its full potential. For us here at World Book Night, this experience has been life-changing, as we hope it has been for you and recipients of the books. Our gratitude to you is simply immeasurable.

Naturally last night I also went back to revisit my posts about World Book Night (further saddened that WBN 2013 was during my hiatus in blogging):

World Book Night with a little help from my son 

World Book Night 2014 – A Perfect Pub Crawl

I shared this experience with people around the country and felt myself an ambassador for reading. That will have to be enough.

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15 thoughts on “Saying good-bye to World Book Night

  1. I was sad to hear about this as well. It was such a great idea and so much fun from what I could gather by everyone’s posts. It’s so great that you were able to participate for three years! And who knows, anything could happen :)

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  2. I’m so sad to hear this! I, like you, hope that there’s some organization or individual that can keep this going. But in the event that that doesn’t happen, I’m glad you at least got a chance to participate in it for three years. Doesn’t seem hopeful that this will come to Canada now either :( Sounds like you did everything you could to make this event amazing.

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  3. I’m so sad about this. I just participated for the first time this year and really loved getting to share a book I love, and seeing strangers get really excited about reading. I really hope a solution can be found.

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