An Army veteran turned independent author, Edward C. Patterson last year launched Operation E-Book Drop, a program linking deployed military members with free electronic books. The project has grown to include about 385 participating independent e-book authors and boutique publishers.
And when we spoke last week, Patterson reported that more than 200,000 free e-book coupons have been distributed to troops.
How did you develop this idea?
I'm constantly on the networks, all of the places where authors go to mingle with readers. In September 2009, I was going through the Amazon discussion threads and there was a solider on there who was stationed in Iraq. It dawned on me that he probably needed some books, so I said to this solider, "If you'd like my books, all of them, I will send them to you." About two minutes later, I had an email [from the solider] and I sent him the books. On Kindle Boards, I put up a poll [for authors] asking, "If you had the opportunity, would you donate books to the troops?" Twenty, maybe 30 authors came forward and said "Sign me up." Someone said, "Why don't we use Smashwords." They create e-books in many different formats. How it has evolved is this: When somebody in the military is interested in getting books, they get an email from the [participating] authors, a link to Smashwords and a 100 percent discount coupon.
The military members need e-book readers to be part of the program?
You'd be surprised how many soldiers have these devices. They have Kindles. They have Sony Readers. But they also have their phones, their Blackberries, iPhones. They can get the books in PDF format if they happen to have a laptop.
What kind of interaction do the authors and military members have?
Each author can have a one-on-one with the military contacts. Some of them write blurbs about what their books are about. The military people, they send a thank-you email back and photos of themselves. It's very heartwarming. The military members can be any service member who is deployed. It's not just the U.S. It's the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, France. And we don't limit it to the actual military individual. If a mother or a wife has a military family member going overseas [she can take part]. We have some corporate organizations that buy Kindles and fill them up. They send the Kindles to be shared among the troops. All of this is voluntary.
What genres are available?
All genres. From romance to military to traditional novels to gay and lesbian. Where some programs have proscribed the gay and lesbian area [and other genres], we do not. The men and women [in the military] are serving our country and fighting for our freedoms. Those freedoms are very important. One of those freedoms is to read whatever we like. They're the ones that are giving us the freedom to write what we want. Nobody should say, "You can't read this."
Image, top: Operation E-Book Drop logo / Courtesy of Edward C. Patterson
Image: bottom: Edward C. Patterson
This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com