This article, by Madeleine Crum, originally appeared on The Huffington Post on 3/30/12.
The cover of Castle Freeman Jr.’s sixth book, a collection of 12 stories set in the rural North East, has a few eye-catching elements: The image is of brittle grass and a rickety, abandoned home, an aesthetic matched by the rough texture of the cover.
More unusual, though, is the price tag situated above the bar code. This book costs $0.00.
"Round Mountain" is one of seven novels published so far by Concord Free Press, which, as its name implies, is a nonprofit that creates free printed books that can be requested via their site. The only condition is that the reader donates to a charity of their choice and passes the book along when they’re finished. The organization has so far raised over $260,000 for various charities including Planned Parenthood, local libraries and hurricane relief funds.
Its other titles include "The Next Queen Of Heaven" by "Wicked" author Gregory Maguire and "Give and Take," the fourth book by the press’ founder, Stona Fitch.
"My book was about generosity. It’s sort of a latter day Robin Hood story. This jazz player steals diamonds and BMWs then gives them away," Fitch told The Huffington Post on the telephone from the organization’s headquarters.
Although "Give and Take" was bought by a major literary imprint in 2007, the book was "abandoned" when Fitch’s editor left the industry. Faced with the choice of ditching or self-publishing his story, he instead decided to open his own company, employing the philosophy of a nonprofit farm he works with, which grows produce to donate to local shelters.
"My agent told me not to open the press. A lot of friends said I’d make a fool out of myself," Fitch says. "[But] writers have to be activists. I’m very much an activist. You can’t wait for publishing to figure it out for you."
Nestled above a bakery in Concord, Mass., the company takes pride in their humble philosophy and alternative to mainstream publishing houses. Three-and-a-half years in, Concord Free Press has published just six books using its unusual model.