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The new trend in corporate philanthropy: giving books

Piles of new books

TEXT OF STORY

JEREMY HOBSON: Well here in New York and all around the country the bell ringers from the Salvation Army are out asking for your spare change. It's the giving season, after all.

And as Marketplace's Jeff Tyler reports, giving books is a growing trend in the world of corporate philanthropy.


JEFF TYLER: At the check-out register at Borders book store in Los Angeles, the cashier says to each customer:

CHECKOUT PERSON: We're also collecting donations for a charity called Aviva. We're trying to get books to kids for Christmas. Did you want to donate one of these titles behind me?

CUSTOMER: Sure.

CHECKOUT PERSON: These two books? Great. Thank you so much.

Mary Davis is PR manager for Borders Group.

MARY DAVIS: This is a great way to get books into hands of kids that might not otherwise have access to these books.

She says the book-drives reflect well on the company.

DAVIS: It's great when you're local book store or your local retailer has a vested interest in strengthening communities. So it's a good PR story.

In a completely separate act of book charity, author Tom Clancy and his publisher gave a thousand copies of his new novel to American soldiers. The book included personal thank-you notes from the public.

Tom Colgan is Clancy's editor.

TOM COLGAN: We've given books just directly to the military. But this twist of really getting people involved directly, where they can write their own message, is new. That's something that we came up with this time around.

If there's any benefit in terms of marketing, he says it's not by design.

COLGAN: We're giving away a thousand books. So we're not going to sell a thousand more books because we did this.

Penguin is also donating $10,000 to Walter Reed Red Cross. And Borders is giving $50,000 to a literacy charity called First Book. But other companies prefer to give more products and less cash.

Consultant Curt Weedon advises corporations about philanthropy.

CURT WEEDON: It's the tax advantage, the branding advantage that comes in conjunction with product giving that's driving that form of corporate philanthropy throughout the country, not just in the book publishing field.

In 2009, Weedon says high-tech giant Oracle was one of the top corporate donors.

WEEDON: Ninety-nine percent of their giving was product.

Publishing and philanthropy intersect again as Weedon writes about the subject in a new book, called "Smart Giving is Good Business." Comes out in February.

I'm Jeff Tyler for Marketplace.

About the author

Jeff Tyler is a reporter for Marketplace’s Los Angeles bureau, where he reports on issues related to immigration and Latin America.

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