The Gift Economy: An Experiment in Altruism

How’s this for a business model? You print books, set up a website, and post a copy to whoever asks for one, for free. No postage. No cover price. F-R-E-E.

What’s the catch? It’s not a catch so much, but an attempt to establish a different approach to publishing. Here’s what the publisher, Concord Free Press, says on their website. “In exchange, we ask readers to make a voluntary donation to a local charity or someone in need in their community. And we ask them to pass the book on, so that every time the book changes hands, it generates more contributions.”

Donations are on the honour system. You just have to log the details on Concord’s website. So far they believe they have inspired almost $300k worth of donations worldwide, since they set up shop in 2008. They only publish two books a year — generally titles they commission themselves.

It’s the brainchild of Stona and Ann Fitch, a husband and wife team of writers who live, shockingly, in Concord, Mass. The press’s advisory board includes such luminaries as Russell Banks, Joyce Carol Oates and Francine Prose. It’s a limited print run (about 3000 books) so get in quick if you want to sign up for one. Or check out the list of bookshops which carry their titles (there are 60 or so, all but one in the US — the other is in Vancouver, BC).

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