An Alternative to Destroying Overruns: A Q&A with Books for Asia Director Melody Zavala
The Asia Foundation is providing publishers with an alternative to incinerating or pulping overruns and excess stock. Through its Books for Asia program, which the foundation started in 1954, publishers may instead donate these books for distribution to remote and impoverished areas throughout the Asian continent.
Books for Asia delivers nearly one million books and educational resources to 17 countries in Asia every year. Publishers that have already partnered with the program include McGraw-Hill, John Wiley and Sons, Scholastic, W.W. Norton, Island Press and Lynne Rienner Publishers.
Melody Zavala, director of Books for Asia, spoke with Book Business Extra about the San Francisco-based nonprofit’s work and how the U.S. book publishing community can get involved.
Book Business Extra: Why should publishers consider participating in this program?
Melody Zavala: … Three-quarters [of the world’s illiterate population] live in Asia and the Pacific region. So, there’s a real need to expand literature in Asia, and over the longer term, that can create markets for publishers. … We need to create a market for English-language materials. … English materials are valuable in Asia. They’re learning English, and it’s a path [to] their country’s economic success to have information of the world …. For publishers, this means contributing to [an area] where there is more [business] opportunity. …
Some of these donated materials may have exhausted their life in the States. Oftentimes, a new edition [of a book has been] published, and they don’t want to market [the old] one. … Here’s a whole other useful life for materials that a lot of effort went into creating. It’s more satisfying than pulping these books. … It also helps reduce the environmental footprint of the industry. And in a lot of the countries we work, they have a lot less, and they value the books even more. … For publishers, it’s win, win, win—they don’t have to dispose [of] the books, it benefits the world, and it benefits themselves.