Mini Library Boxes

Rachel Kent

Blogger: Rachel Kent

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas!

I read an article yesterday about a man who started a little personal lending library from a large mailbox outside of his house and the idea has caught on all over the world. Here’s a link to the article:

Basically, the libraries are in locations that allow for passers-by to take a book and leave a different one for others to read and enjoy. As a reader, it sounds like an awesome idea. I would love to be able to share books I’ve purchased with others and read some without having to spend the money. My question is, do you think these boxes are helpful or harmful for authors, agents and publishers? Sharing allows readers to get books without paying–possibly harming the publishing market–but it also promotes reading and could expose readers to authors they haven’t heard of before–potentially helping the publishing world.

I’d like to open this up for discussion and look forward to reading what you think! I will try to pop in a few times, but my family is traveling today so please feel free to talk amongst yourselves as well.

23 Responses

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  1. Thanks for this Rachel… I hadn’t heard of it. It sounds like a neat idea.

    Anything that gets more people reading has to be a good thing, overall. I do think it has more potential to harm famous, best-selling authors; their books are more likely to be traded, I imagine. These little libraries can only help unheard-of authors who may be discovered by some new readers — and whose books stand little chance of being purchased by someone who’s never heard of them.

    Christmas and New Years blessings to all.

    • jacqueline fairchild gillam says:

      Dear Rachel: Sharing books is always great. I don’t think it hurts an author, quite the opposite. Sometimes it is the nudge to introduce you to a new writer who will become a favorite.

      Warm regards
      Jacqueline Gillam Fairchild

      ps are you taking tons of new baby pix?

  2. I hadn’t heard of the mailbox libraries either, but I’m a member of a Woman’s Club which has a “book exchange.” While it seems logical to think that the share-a-book activity would hurt authors, I think it ultimately will help. The whole purpose of the club’s book exchange is to encourage members to read and to become excited about reading. The club also has a book club and it introduces members to genres and authors they ordinarily wouldn’t read, broadening their interests as readers. I think all of this is to the benefit of authors and book writing. After all, lending libraries have been around in this country since Benjamin Franklin and people are still buying books. There have been times that I have liked a book I borrowed from the library so much that I’ve gone out and bought a copy just so I could read it over and over. I began an avid reader because my parents took my sister and me to the library every Saturday. We got a stack of books, then went home and read. Going to the library, then going to explore the worlds of the books was the highlight of the week. So that’s my two cents on the subject.

    Rachel, I wish you and your family a wonderful Christmas season and a joyous New Year!


  3. This is a fascinating notion. A mailbox library, who knew. 🙂

    I agree with Christine that since libraries have been in existence for many, many years I don’t think these “mini” libraries will hurt publishing any more than libraries possibly may be already.

    I’ve read books from libraries and purchased them afterward too. I’ve also discovered new authors through borrowing books–one is Susanna Kearsley and now I’m purchasing all of her books.

    Hope you had a great Christmas, Rachel! I know yall had fun with your little girl. 🙂 Happy New Year!


    • Rachel Kent says:

      I think discovering new authors is the best! I think the mailbox idea would be helpful for this. I hope you had a great Christmas too. 🙂

  4. Leah E Good says:

    Wow. What a neat idea.

    I think that people sharing books ultimately helps writers and the publishing industry. Lots of writers do book giveaways to promote their books. How nice of someone else to do it for them!

  5. Sarah Thomas says:

    A restaurant in our town is inviting folks to vote on a mini library design for their location. I like the pie shelf with chalkboard, but don’t let me sway you! And I agree with others, getting folks excited about books is GOOD. Maybe when I’m published I’ll slip one of my books in there–new marketing plan?!/doughasheville/app_549974715016307

  6. Rachel, I hope you had a wonderful Christmas with your family and new baby. Goodness, you all at Books & Such don’t waste time getting back to work! I’m still in a fudge coma. 😉

    I’ve seen a few of the little library boxes around and thought they were fascinating. I like the idea of community and sharing they represent. It’s more personal than borrowing from the library since someone CHOSE to share a particular book and also has the feel of an anonymous game to it.

    I’d love to drop a few Dragon and Turtle books into a lending box and hope they make it into the hands of kids who might not discover them otherwise. As an author, I see nothing but good in any method that reaches readers. Well, ok, maybe not ANY method. I can think of a few stratedgies I’m not keen to try. Sandwich board anyone?

  7. Hope you had a lovely Christmas, Rachel. I had heard of this mailbox idea before. Like the others, I think it’s a great idea. Yes, it might short term have a negative impact, but since word of mouth is still a very powerful promotional tool, in the end, I feel the positives are far greater.

    Prayers for a safe journey.

  8. Heidi Gaul says:

    These have caught on up here in the Covallis, Oregon, area. I wonder if they teach us to be open to new perspectives and also generosity … my guess is yes, and I am tempted to register to set one up out front of my house.Thanks for mentioning this new trend.

  9. I’m hearing more and more how offering stuff for free is the best way to expose readers to your work and therefore growing your potential audience. For instance, I know lots of people in the Baltimore-Washington area who won’t read “Christian Fiction” because they’d tried it years ago and didn’t relate. Many stories were about small towns or areas nothing like the metropolitan area they lived in. So I started lending the books I’d accumulated over the years so readers could see how Christian Fiction has broadened since they’d tried it. Now some of my favorite authors are favorites of those who’d have never tried them before.

    The music industry is giving out lots of free downloads for this reason as well. In order for people to “discover” you, they need to get a sample first.

  10. Terrific idea. I’m headed to Florida, where my house sits at the end of a long dirt road, so only my friends would ever see it, but as soon as I return to the city where hundreds of dog-walking neighbors pass every day, I’m putting up a mailbox and painting “LENDING LIBRARY” on it. I’ve got tons of books I don’t mind losing.

  11. Tari Faris says:

    Thanks, I hope you had a special first Christmas with your little one. I have never heard of this idea. But I don’t see how it could hurt any more than used bookstores or picking up books from Goodwill. I know many fear the digital age of books, but since I started buying books digitally instead of used I must say I’ve spent much more on new books. I am currently trying to reduce the number of hardcopy books I own for space sake, but I don’t believe one of these would be allowed with our HOA.

  12. Julie Nilson says:

    I don’t think it would hurt publishing any more than regular brick-and-mortar libraries or neighborhood book exchanges do.

  13. Peter DeHaan says:

    I think this helps authors, as their books will be read by a larger audience, some of whom will go out and buy more books by that author, while others will tell their friends about the “great book” they just read.

  14. Lisa Nieman says:

    I think it’s a wonderful idea. I love nothing more than sharing books. Except maybe food. 🙂

    Happy Holidays!

  15. Navdeep Kaur says:

    I think it’s a good idea. With the busy lives we all lead, it’s hard to take out enough time to go to the library and check out books. This will help create a buzz around reading again, helping authors by creating loyal readers. I think initially this may hurt sales, but in the long-run it may help establish writers among readers who did not exist before.

  16. Jan Thompson says:

    Weeellll, I’m ambivalent about this. It does remind me of geocaching, and on the outset it seems like a fun idea! Then again…

    On the one hand, lending books to friends and family is not a new phenomenon, and has been happening for perpetuity it seems, even before Ben Franklin started his first lending library in 1731. So another lending library around the block seems like a good idea. I can see the benefits of exposure for certain titles, and the community feeling of sharing, etc.

    On the other hand, we have a situation with public libraries across the U.S. trying to keep their doors open, trying not to lose funds. The libraries near me, that used to be open almost all the time it seems, now operate on limited hours, and limited personnel. Public libraries tend to have more genres covered than a mailbox library around the corner, so that more readers from babies to seniors can have options. A mailbox library has limited offerings just because of physical space, and books that might go out and never come back.

    And secondly, even as a yet-to-be-published writer, I can see why publishers just need to sell more books, not fewer LOL. Everybody needs the income, from the independent booksellers to the authors themselves. With Christian novels selling at no more $10-$15 per book at retail (I’m surprised some titles on Kindle go for $2.99 or less), the authors are not taking home a whole lot of income, in spite of the long days of work going into producing a single book. Writing is hard work, and it needs to pay off — literally — somehow…

    So what to do? I’m definitely on the fence on this one 🙂

  17. I’ve heard of the mailbox thing before. Some people in our community started a monthly free book swap where people can bring as many or none at all to donate and take home as many as they want. It’s a great way to help people who can’t afford to buy books and encourage people to read more. Anything that encourages reading helps all of us.

  18. Denise Hisey says:

    Isn’t this a grand idea?
    I’ve read about several in the Puget Sound area. Neighborhoods have gotten kids involved in building the little shelters and they’ve even donated books.
    I think it’s marvelous!

  19. Rene Diane Aube says:

    There is one of these mailbox libraries not too far from my house where people stroll along the lower Niagara River. Here and there you find benches along the river walk path to sit and enjoy the view of the swirling water between Canada and the US as it pulsates its’ course to Lake Ontario. Though I haven’t had the luxury of accessing this library, I have heard through the grapevine that it is very much enjoyed by the locals and by tourists devouring this beautiful corner of New York State.

    I think any exposure is good exposure. When I get published, I think I will place one of my books in it, maybe someone will then look for the sequel to Daisy’s first adventure.

    Merry Christmas! What fun to have a little one to celebrate with! I miss my children being little…especially at Christmas time.