Friends of the BBT Newsletter - December 07
Posted December 15, 2007
The Book Distribution Initiative
by Madhava Smullen
Book distribution has changed since the "glory days" of the 1960s and 70s. Most devotees are now householders with jobs rather than fulltime missionaries. But is this necessarily a bad thing? Perhaps we can use change in our favor, take advantage of newfound experience, maturity, and wisdom, and create new, innovative methods that will usher in the most successful era of book distribution yet.
Vaisesika Dasa thinks so. Drawing on his years of experience as a book distributor, he's collected the best practices from around the world and packaged them into "The Book Distribution Initiative."
Conceived in coordination with Gopal Bhatta Dasa's Spiritual Strategic Planning Team, the program aims to bring the focus back to book distribution, which Vaisesika believes is foundational. It's an old concept, but his approach is new and fresh. "Many devotees feel that we need new models," he says. "We want to create a culture that gives those who are not fulltime book distributors the support and facility they need to be inspired and contribute in whatever way they can."
Like Vaisesika himself, The Book Distribution Initiative is simple, to the point, and bubbling with enthusiasm. Its six practical steps can be implemented in any temple or community.
First up is the Monthly Sankirtana Festival, celebrated over a long weekend. Using Vaisesika's philosophy of "a lot of people doing a little bit, rather than a few people doing all of the work," it gives congregational members the chance to have a comfortable, well-organized sankirtana experience. With Full Set Distribution, the second step, devotees install full Srimad Bhagavatam sets in their customers' homes.
Third is the Smart Table, a self-serve book table placed in temple lobbies; some sell $20,000 worth of books ever year. Step four, its sister project, is The Smart Box, a smaller self-serve book display placed in public restaurants, boutiques, and gifts shops. Its birth city, San Jose, now has fifty Smart Boxes making a combined $500 per month. Fifteen have also been installed in Boston, with a goal of twenty-five by the end of 2007. "
They've even made their way to Iraq," Vaisesika says. "US soldier Partha Sarathi Dasa has installed several Smart Boxes at his military base, and each of them is selling twenty to thirty books a day."