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Sharing 'The Disappearing Spoon'
February 10, 2011 - 8:00pm

The nicest thing that one person can do for another is to give a book (maybe that is why I'm such a librarian groupie!). Imagine my joy when the UPS guy dropped off a big box full of 12 books! Actually 12 copies of The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements, by Sam Kean.

The books were sent by Amanda Tobier, a marketing manager at Little, Brown and Company. I had written a brief blog about the book, and Amanda reached out to me wondering if I'd like to share some copies of the book around campus. I'm not quite sure the best way to pass these books along to my campus community. Choices include:



  • Give the books to my colleagues in our Library, as that way they could circulate.

I just don't know.

Any ideas? How would you find loving homes on your campus for this wonderful book?

Anyway, I was so happy with this box of books I decided to ask Amanda what motivated her to send it along. Below is a quick e-mail interview that I did with Amanda:

My Question: Why did you decide to send a box of the The Disappearing Spoon to me? What were your motivations?

Amanda's Answer: I sent out copies of The Disappearing Spoon knowing (hoping!) that you would better be able to find the right academic audience for the book. I’m limited in how I can find readers of a particular niche, because I am not in that niche myself, so it is of immeasurable help to have that assistance.

My Question: What do you think would be the best way to get this book into the "consciousness" or "zeitgeist" of my institution? How do you think the copies of the book should be distributed.

Amanda's Answer: The best way to get into the zeitgeist is probably something you know best! Maybe your community responds to contests, or challenges. The responders who have the funniest/smartest/most unique request for the book, perhaps. Or maybe it can inspire some short blog posts of their own—each person who wins a copy would then write up a short review. Or maybe teachers/students would write about their own favorite element.

My Question: How common is it to send a box of popular nonfiction books, books that could (and should) be assigned in courses and read by our faculty / students / staff, to campuses.

Amanda's Answer: Sending out books like this is fairly unusual. Publishers generally depend on the outreach of their academic marketing departments, which issue catalogs and attend conferences where faculty can request books for consideration of adopting for their courses. In seeking out bloggers like you, I know there is already interest, and it is a more focused approach. It sometimes also requires more work, but that’s the fun part of my job.

My Question: You sent a box of hardcover books - but I read the book in audio format from Do you think that there is room for "seeding" books like this on campus with digital copies (from either e-books or audiobooks). What would be the pros and cons.

Amanda's Answer: Digital copies are always a possibility, especially when we are offering enhanced versions of the ebook. It’s a great way to introduce potential readers to the extra components of an ebook, or an audio book. There are no cons, I think—it still promotes reading, and readers can choose how they prefer to view/read/listen to the book.

My Question: How much adoption on college campuses have you seen around The Disappearing Spoon. Have you worked on other titles (or can you think of other popular nonfiction books) that have really taken off on campuses?

Amanda's Answer:The Disappearing Spoon has been adopted by several schools (that we know of, there could be more.) And we know there will be many more when the book comes out in paperback this spring. We have had huge success with all of Malcolm Gladwell’s books, and more recently, with Jonathan Safran Foer’s book on vegetarianism, Eating Animals.

Fascinating. Thank you again Amanda for your books and your thoughts (and thank you Sam Kean for writing such a terrific book).

Have any of you received a gift of a box of books? How did you send them into the world? What are you reading?

Program note…..this blog will return from vacation on Monday, 2/21.


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