by Paratrikananda dasa
Over the years, book distribution has become synonymous with airports and parking lots. There are alternative methods of book distribution. Some of these methods are new, and some are revivals or variations of older methods that may have been forgotten. Devotees today are "thinking outside the box," and transcending conventional conceptions. Let us know if you have any ideas to add. And keep in mind that books can be simply given away, as stated by Srila Prabhupada in the following conversation:
Devotee (1): I just bought five thousand dollars' worth of Bhagavad-gitas.
Devotee (2): That's very good.
Devotee (1): What is it for?
Devotee (2): And they give them away.
Devotee (1): Thank you. Thank you, God.
Prabhupada: No, no, even giving them away, what is the wrong?
Devotee (2): Well, you said we should not give the books away. You said we should sell these books.
Prabhupada: (chuckles) No, no, he has purchased. He has purchased. Then if you purchase from me and if you give free to others, so what is my loss?
Devotee (2): No, there is no loss.
Devotee (1): I'm not giving away his books.
Prabhupada: No, no, even if he gives away, this is not a fault, you see? Suppose there are... In South Africa many Indians are purchasing our books and giving to the library. So somebody will read it. So that is not a fault. If I purchase from you and give it, distribute it free to somebody else, that is not wrong thing.
Morning Walk -- March 8, 1976, Mayapur
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"Anartha" Yard Sale
Get rid of all those unwanted things. Have a yard sale with some of the other devotees in your community. Don’t forget to sell Prabhupada’s books or give one away with every purchase. Make the program more lively by combining it with a bake sale or prasadam distribution. Make it even more ecstatic by adding a bhajan concert. Use the proceeds to support further book distribution or other preaching programs.
Bright, airy, spacious, beautiful decor, lush green carpet, high ceilings, all utilities paid, rent free! Have a Sunday Feast in the park! Chant under a tree, like Prabhupada did in New York. Distribute prasadam. Distribute books. You’ll reach people who may never visit a temple. Spread the mercy -- go to a different park each week!
Recruit devotee musicians, actors or dancers in your area and have a benefit performance. Combine it with a benefit dinner. All patrons should receive a book. Have a drawing for a complete set of books. Use the proceeds to support further book distribution or prasadam distribution or other devotional projects.
Hare Krsna Reserves
Spend one weekend a month at your local temple. Go out on sankirtan or allow someone else to go out by covering their service. Or, just like military reservists, find a location to donate two weeks or so during the summer.
Check It Out
According to the BBT, only a fraction of the university and college libraries have full sets of books. And virtually no municipal libraries have them. There’s no calculating how many people will read Prabhupada’s books if placed in a library. And don’t forget there are libraries in hospitals, nursing homes, retirement communities, cruise ships, trains, military bases, coffee houses, civic organizations and private clubs. Many churches, including Episcopal, Methodist, Presbyterian, Unity and Unitarian will also accept hindu scriptures, in the interest of ecumenical understanding. You won’t know if a library will accept a book unless you ask.
Place flyers or cards advertising Prabhupada’s books on auto windshields. Invite people to contact you for more information or to place an order-easy!
Back to Home
You can do something similar to the above by placing flyers at the doors of houses or apartment buildings.
Back to School
Set up engagements at high schools, universities, and community colleges. Start bhakti-yoga clubs. Distribute books, prasadam and the holy name. Just like old times!
If you own a business, you can use part of the profit from sales to see that your customers receive books. This can be done anonymously, if you prefer, by sending books through the mail with no return address. Christmas is a good time for this program.
Business owners can also buy books for their employees as Christmas gifts.
It’s In the Bag
Carry a small (or big) book bag whenever you go for a walk, shopping, stop for gas, etc. Whomever you meet, give them a chance to take a book. This is what we did in the early days of book distribution. You’ll be surprised at how many nice people you meet.
A Gradual Process
Step 1: Invite your co-workers or neighbors for dinner.
Step 2: If they like the food, offer to give them vegetarian cooking classes.
Step 3: If they like the classes, introduce them to chanting.
Step 4: If they like the chanting offer them some books.
The Spiritual Sky
Next time you take a flight, why not travel and preach? Just place a couple books in the magazine pockets of the seats. The next group of passengers will be in for a pleasant surprise.
A Warm Reception
Leave books on the magazine tables in reception areas of businesses, professional offices, and other establishments.
Servant of the Servant
If you can’t distribute books yourself, help someone who already is. You can buy books for them to distribute or assist them in other ways that may help them in their service.
Everything belongs to Krsna so why not use the Lord’s unique loving (hi-tech) network to distribute books? The internet presents abundant opportunities for innovative preaching. For example, you can set up an online bookstore like Amazon.com or make selections from your favorite books available online.
Lord Caitanya excused them all, and they merged into the ocean of devotional service, for no one can escape the unique loving network of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
CC Adi 7.37
The Sankirtan Ad-vantage
Take out ads in periodicals. As part of your advertisement include provocative quotes or passages right from the book you are selling. This in itself is a form of book distribution. If you have the resources you can run a monthly, weekly or even daily ad with a different verse and purport each time (this idea will also work online).
If he reads one sloka, his life will be successful. If one sloka, one word. This is such nice things. Therefore we are stressing so much, "Please distribute book, distribute book, distribute book.”
Srimad-Bhagavatam lecture 1.16.8
Los Angeles, January 5, 1974
Adopt a Town or Village
Make it your life’s work to mail a book to everyone in a town of your choice. You can buy software which lists all addresses in all cities in the USA (similar programs may be available in other countries). You can also get a street address listing from some phone companies. You could select an obscure little town that may never have a chance to see devotees or you may want to stake a claim on a particular section of a larger city. Set aside a small portion of your monthly income and send out a few books each month until you’ve covered your chosen area. Srila Prabhupada encouraged a generic approach like this in the following letter:
The quote book, "The Krishna Consciousness Movement is Authorized'', is very important. From each city find out important persons names and post it. You can send it to important members of the Government, businessmen, entertainers, sportsmen, etc. Another device is that you can address it to "Any Respectable Gentleman, Post Office ..., City ..., State ...''. The postman will then deliver it to some respectable gentleman. Everyone who gets it will think: "I am a most respectable gentleman because he has give it to me.'' The best thing is to find out the customers list to some big magazine like "Time'' or "Life'', and post it to them.
Srila Prabhupada letter - Calcutta, January 12, 1976
You can also include a nice cover letter and invite people to correspond with you or order more books. Below is an excerpt from a letter Srila Prabhupada wrote addressing people he had never met. You may wish to use it, or write your own letter in the same spirit.
My dear Brother,
Please excuse me if I have offended you by calling you my dear Brother. Actually you are my dear brother and when you know me you shall be pleased that I have called you as such.
You are my brother in relation to our common and Eternal Father the Almighty Personality of Godhead Sri Krishna the revealing Author of the great book of Philosophy "Bhagavad-gita.'' And from this book of transcendental knowledge, I have known that you and all other living entities, in whatever form they may be, are all my brothers.
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So I want that you all my students shall very vigorously try for this book distribution. Do not hesitate to use your American and European brains to increase, that is Krishna's special gift to you, now use it. Any activity which will please Krishna should be accepted favorably, this is our guiding principle. Now apply it in this way, by doing everything and anything for spreading this Krishna Conscious literature, and this is really pleasing to Krishna, know it for certain.
Srila Prabhupada letter
Vrindaban, November 27, 1971