Monday, November 20, 2006

Wanda’s Excellent Book Giving Back Adventure!
7 Days, 9 Bookstores, $1500 Worth of Books!
Columbia, SC - Nov 20, 2006

What would you do if you had $1000 to give away?

That is the question Oprah had everyone asking themselves when she announced her Gift of Giving Back initiative, where every member of her studio audience received one thousand dollars, a camcorder, and the exhortation to go out and do good works.

So what would you do with $1000? “That’s easy,” said Wanda Jewell, the Executive Director of the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA), “I’d buy people books.”

Giving Back Books
Although not an original member of Oprah’s audience, Jewell, like most people involved in the bookselling industry, is a fan of the show and was watching on the day Oprah first announced her Giving Back program. “I thought, ‘I can do that. I have $1000’” she said. Thus was born the idea for what Jewell is calling her Excellent Book Giving Adventure. Armed only with a camcorder, a $1000 Book Sense gift card, and a very patient husband, Jewell will spend a week in December touring bookstores in the South and offering to buy people a book.
“You know,” Jewell said,, “there have been plenty of times in my life when I walked out of a bookstore empty handed because I couldn’t afford to buy a book that day, no matter how much I wanted one. If I can give someone a book who wouldn’t otherwise get one, I want to do it.”

Jewell has worked out a kind of “tour” of bookstores throughout the states of South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama, finally ending up at Page and Palette Bookstore in Fairhope, AL, where she will spend a week on the sales floor as a bookseller during the busy Christmas shopping season.

“We thought it would be a good idea for Wanda to have some experience on the sales floor,” said Page and Palette owner Karin Wilson, who is also a member of the SIBA Board. Jewell concurs. “I’m the Executive Director of an organization that represents independent booksellers,” she points out. “I need to know what I’m representing.”

Oh yes, and while she is brushing up on her hand selling skills at Page and Palette, Jewell will also buy people a further $500 worth of books, thanks to a donation from the bookstore. Altogether, Jewell hopes to buy a totla of $1500 worth of books for people on her trip.

Jewell hopes that the stores on her Excellent Book Giving Adventure Itinerary (listed below) will be able to use her visit as a way to promote themselves in their community, and that the whole trip will be a model for other people in the book industry to use to promote independent bookselling. To that end, Jewell will be promoting her visits to each of the stores with regular updates on her blog ( and video streaming on SIBA’s websites, and SIBA will also send press announcements to each of the communities she is visiting to encourage media to focus its attention on its local retailers.

“It’s a crazy combination of Christmas spirit, bookstore tourism and pay-it-forward philosophy” says Jewell, who hopes her trip will inspire others to something similar in their own communities “I feel like the book fairy!” “But if it puts books in the hands of people who want them, it will have served its purpose,” she added. “And if it brings people to their independent bookshops, it will be a success.”

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