The response to the book drive was considerably better than what the bookstore staff had expected and, honestly, a bit above my own expectations as well. I would estimate that we're going to be sending out about the same number of boxes as we did after the ConClave book drive--about 40 boxes or so. I've been sorting through the books to get some idea of the types and it is interesting to see the difference between the two drives. ConClave was heavy in paperback classic sci-fi and fantasy (not a surprise) while this drive is largely newer, hardback popular fiction. But, and this is a huge bonus, there are a lot of westerns (very popular). I even saw a few familys come into the bookstore with their children to buy books expressly for the book drive. Thank you especially for that. I also learned from the staff at Hastings that someone had conducted their own drive at their place of work and then dropped the books off at the store before I got there on Saturday. I never even got to see this paerson and yet they made a huge contribution to the drive. Thank you and everyone you work with (and feel free to post and let me know who and where).
So, where does that leave the drive itself? The short answer is, now I look for group requests over at BooksforSoldiers that match the types of books recieved, box up the books for shipping, fill out the customs forms, and start sending them out. That's going to go a lot slower than I'd like and it will probably take a few months before they're all sent. Why? Well, for one thing, my available manpower is limited and another is the sheer volume of donations exceeded what we were ready to handle. But the other thing that will slow the process is that while the good, literate people of the Ozarks and the staff at Hastings did a good job in getting the word out and the books in, our appeals for corporate supporters was met with an unusual deafening silence. Maybe it's the economy or maybe it's that the war isn't a "sexy, marketable" cause these days or maybe it's just bad timing but the end result is, I'm financing the postage myself. I'm not complaining because I always plan on that but it does mean that I can't ship everything all at once.
Some of you may wonder how much it costs to send a box of books. I use boxes that are about the size of a case of paper for each requests and, since it's all books, I'm able to mail it all media rate. That puts the cost per box at about 20 dollars. All in all a really good rate because these boxes are heavy. For those who don't know, by the way, APO and FPO addresses are considered domestic for postal rates so that helps as well.
Filling out customs forms sounds a lot scarier than it actually is. I simply go down to the post office in little Hindsville Arkansas, tell the Post Mistress what I'm sending out and she hands me the forms I need (you can also download them off the web). You fill out your name and address and then where it's going (the form also acts as a mailing label) check a few boxes to answer some basic handling questions (Like, if the person it's adressed to isn't there anymore, should the box be returned, thrown away, or left with the current resident--obviously since the military folks rotate in and out, I always check leave with resident), and finally, there's a section that says "What's in here?" and the answer is "Books" and a rough estimate of the number. Easy.
You may ask, "Can I sponsor a box or two?" and the answer is "Well, yes, I feel uncomfortable taking your money but give it go me and I'll pay the postman." But don't worry about that, just be patient and I'll keep updating everyone as the boxes go out.
Since I've been sick for the last week and the heat is horrid here (and no AC in the storage building with the books) I would estimate that the first wave of shipments will go out around the middle of June and nearing July, hopefully to arrive around the holiday.