One of America’s top business leaders, Jeff Bezos developed the concept of predictive analytics and has centered Amazon around the customer. When offering insights to today’s business leaders, Bezos says the Kindle and the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud were invented because of his obsession to give his customers what they want. And one thing customers want is to feel like at least some of the profits from their purchases go to good causes, and Amazon is making some clear efforts to find its feet as a prominent corporate benefactor. On August 24th, 2016 they announced the Kindle Reading Fund, The Seattle Times reported that the program will initially donate thousands of devices to developing countries through the non-profit Worldreader.
Amazon has caused major economic disruption, to the point where businesses call this the “Amazon Effect.” It’s not entirely a bad thing: the Amazon Marketplace offers a great opportunity for small businesses to reach a wider audience through an expanded distribution network. It’s not bad news for libraries either. Reading is reading, whether done on a screen or using paper. Map showing the Kingdom “Amazonia” courtesy Pepperdine University
Many question the motives of the retail giant, whether this new move is simple public relations or part of their larger strategy to gather more customer data and sell more products. After all, Amazon has always been about offering new value, which does not always mean a new product. Yet sometimes “new value is just a new perception,” says Dr. Charla Griffy-Brown of Pepperdine in a webinar on Innovation and Big Data. “New value can be charitable contributions that make a customer feel better about their purchase.”
No matter what the reason Amazon has for offering free Kindles and Ebooks, they are already working with the National PTA and other nonprofits to offer the Kindle Reading Fund to a wider variety of those in need. So how do libraries get involved?
Start a Program. One of the ways to be sure you get any kind of assistance or funding from any organization is to have a program already in place or ready to launch. Amazon, like other granting organizations, likes to see that their donations have a place to go and an efficient way to get there. Remember, at least a part of the motive of charitable giving is good publicity. Have a plan in place for publicizing your program and giving Amazon credit publicly for the donation, and they will be more likely to grant your request.
Have a Staffing Plan. With any program comes the need for staff to run the program, and while ebooks and Kindles may be free, the labor of your employees who run the program is not. While you may be able to do many things with volunteers, staff is still needed to supervise them. In the era of tight budgets, make sure you have room for this change.
Apply. Once you have a program and a staffing plan in place, apply to Amazon for assistance through the Kindle Reading Fund. Amazon has set up a webpage to make it easy to make a donation request. You can apply by clicking here.
No matter what you think of the retail king Amazon, and whether you attribute the demise of bookstores to them or other market forces (including the failure of said book stores to adapt to a new market), they have opened up several programs that are helpful to libraries. Although they offer paid subscription services, they are unlikely to replace libraries any time soon.
The Kindle Reading Fund is a great opportunity for your library to give to your community and inspire reading and learning in a digital generation. Being prepared with a program and a staffing plan will help your application succeed.