Baltimore Rhythms: Book Thing

CBS 60 MINUTES, NOVEMBER 12, 2017, 9:51 AM: For more than 17 years Russell Wattenberg has catered to thousands of hungry minds. He runs a Baltimore outfit called The Book Thing, which is not a library or store. People can just take whatever books they want, for free. A fire destroyed the non-profit in March 2016, but a new page has turned: The Book Thing has bounced back. Steve Hartman reports.

Recycled Knowledge Never Dies

How much is a book worth?    As the world’s first portable virtual reality “machine” a book would seem to be invaluable. Just imagine being trapped on a desert island without a book to stimulate your imagination or inform you on how to survive.  Assuming you could survive, surely you would die without having a way to dream flights of fancy on demand.

However,  most of us don’t live on a desert island. The section of a business book on the economics of supply and demand might tell you that in today’s Internetworked #FrictionLessSociety a book is not worth much at all because the demand for physical books has been plunging since the advent of digital knowledge and the Internet. In fact, book content in general–to include mysteries, biographies, literature, the humanities and science–is generally considered a form of digital knowledge.

Baltimore entrepreneur Russell Wattenberg found the perfect solution at his Book Thing establishment to move books in this weak market demand:

Recycled Knowledge in the form of Free Books!

Naturally, the business model had to be a non-profit organization that required community support in donated books and operational expenses.

Before Book Thing had burned down in March I had donated about 500 of my 2000 books accumulated from my research on every topic imaginable when I moved to Baltimore five years ago.  This year another 1500 of my books will find a new home at the new Book Thing.

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