Operation eBook Drop has astounded me. If anyone would have told me that after three months nearly 290 authors would be participating offering a huge library to the troops, I’d have said — go away!
Here’s the genesis for the program, which was never conceived as such. While in the Amazon discussion groups, I was following the posts of a soldier who was stationed in Iraq. He was helping another customer through the steps to download eBooks through a router to their Kindle. On impulse, I offered this soldier (Joe Terry) a copy of my thirteen published works, if he wanted them. He did and, through our correspondence, I learned just how important reading is to the troops. I should have known this, because I’m an Army veteran (1966-67) — the lonely hours away from home and overseas are real. Wow, I could have killed for a Kindle then.
Operation eBook Drop started on the cuff and replicates that initial gift. I created an Amazon thread to ask if any other deployed troops had Kindles and wanted my books. There were a few nibbles. I then surveyed Indie authors that hung out on Kindleboards.com. The survey results were positive, but soon I had twenty authors asking to donate their books — then thirty — then . . . well, the word went out across the Internet. Within a week, I had an email from Mark Coker, CEO of Smashwords.com. Smashwords is a premier on-line eBook distributor, converting Indie books into various eBook formats. Smashwords is also global. Mark Coker decided that Smashwords would back the project, opening up their author network to come aboard. This facilitated eBook delivery, because a link to the page on Smashwords and a 100%-Off Discount code. The long of the short of it, after a month we had over 60 authors participating and the troops were lining up also.
Operation eBook Drop is still off the cuff, and that’s the key to its success. There’s no central site, communication blog or layers of organization. It simply replicates my interaction with Joe Terry. I maintain a list of troops and authors. When a new author opts in, I email them the troop list and they’re responsible for sending the links and code(s), their own welcome email and, in turn, receive feedback directly from the troops. The troops get what they love most — access to a reading library in a shower of emails. I didn’t want to hog the good feelings, so each author has communication responsibility. They blog, post, network, and even go into print.
The program is only twelve weeks old and we have 290 participating authors, 7 publishing site in the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand and over 70 Troop points of light, including families preparing Kindles for their sons and daughters. We’ve adopted a submarine, the eBook Marine Special Forces program, troops in Iraq, Korea, Afghanistan, Japan, Kuwait, Djibouti, Gitmo and at sea (including the Nimitz). I’m astounded by the success, but why should I be? Independent authors brim with generosity. They know struggle and make their own decisions when it comes to their books and who gets them. They’re in control. Personally, I’m stand in awe of them and urge readers to support them by buying their books. It’s my estimate that the Indie authors of Operation eBook Drop have made available 20,160 copies of eBooks to the troops on the program (and that’s a low estimate as some of the authors have multiple titles and offer them all). The troops choose what they want to read and use the coupons as they see fit, downloading eBooks and porting them to their eReading device.
As for the troops — what can I say? Their sacrifice for our freedom is a better gift than any book I could write. However, because of that freedom, I can author my books as they assure my freedom of speech and the air I breathe. It’s a small donation to fill in their hours away from home and, perhaps in those hours I can provoke a smile or a tear or an escape. Small price to pay for heroism. I salute these brave men and women and hope that no one ever forgets their contribution and sacrifice.
Here are some links for further information on Operation eBook Drop:
For information on joining (authors, deployed troops or their families): http://blog.smashwords.com/2009/09/smashwords-supports-operation-ebook.html
For information on Operation eBook Drop authors: http://tinyurl.com/ygk8u5o
For the Operation eBook Drop Kindleboards forum: http://www.kindleboards.com/index.php/topic,13352.0.html
And come join the Operation eBook Drop Fan club at Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Operation-EBook-Drop/172002003420
Edward C. Patterson