Dear Mr. Bezos,
Firstly, thank you for thinking up the idea of Amazon.com. I’m a big fan – I read books that I buy from Amazon, I write books that I sell on Amazon, and I love my Kindle, both to read books and to think of how we are positively impacting the environment. I have just written a number of blog entries on the e-book revolution and also the tragedy of the pulping industry.
I learned that many of the books that are pulped are textbooks because they are constantly being updated. Now I realize that this good for business, but it is bad for the trees (and therefore us). I just can’t get over the images of books being pulped and left in huge garbage tips. Perhaps it is a Jewish thing – I once witnessed a perfectly rational friend totally lose control of himself when he saw someone burning old moldy books.
His parents were Holocaust survivors who had once boasted a house full of packed bookcases. While some of the family survived, his house had been burned with all the books inside. I have since learned that this is a common in many Holocaust survivors and their offspring, as Nazis piled Jewish books in the street and burned them.
I digress. I work with university students, Mr. Bezos, and they are hurting. They are going into debt for their studies, living expenses and textbooks. Their parents can’t help them and more than a few of my students have taken on a second job to send money to their families. This is not some 3rd or 4th world country, sir, it is San Francisco. And I am sure it is all over Depression-hit America.
So here is my idea, Mr. Bezos, and it is win:win, so bear with me.
1. Every student who enrolls in a state-run university or community college (I would like you to consider all colleges and universities if you can) receives a Kindle in their freshman year, for FREE.
2. They receive generous discounts on their textbooks for three years – we can give them a code that expires then. Moreover, they get updated versions of a textbook they purchased for $1.
What do you get out of this?
1. The gratitude of a generation that saw you reach out to them when they were struggling.
2. Hundreds of thousands of loyal customers. These students will get used to purchasing through Amazon. They will get hooked on the ever-evolving Kindle (because you will ensure that it will always be cutting edge) and on the concept of e-books, of which you are the biggest seller in the world.
3. These students will, we assume emerge from school and the depression into young professionals with spending power and disposable income. They will also have a buying habit and brand loyalty.
4. Help stop the terrible waste of resources, of trees being cut down while global warming increases.
5. Help stop the senseless pulping of books because they have been printed without demand and/or have become out dated.
6. Fame and fortune for doing the right thing for the American people when they most needed it.
On behalf of our students and the planet, I thank you for considering this. Here’s to a bright future for us all.
Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com