Students, Booksellers Benefit From College Book Bucks

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Bestselling author James Patterson’s third annual essay contest for college-bound high school seniors has awarded 235 gift certificates ranging from $250 to $1,000 for use at IndieBound-affiliated bookstores. The prize winners of 2012 College Book Bucks scholarships are encouraged to use the certificates to start building a library of books purchased from an independent bookstore of their choice. This year’s recipients include 15 first-place winners of $1,000 each; 20 second-place winners of $500 each; and 200 third-place winners of $250 each.

Bookstores designated by the winners were alerted via e-mail and were sent funds to be spent by their local scholars. $70,000 of the scholarship funding was donated by James Patterson, and his publisher, Hachette, contributed an additional $5,000, all for use exclusively at ABA member stores. Plans are already in the works for next year’s contest, and Patterson is encouraging stores to start thinking about it now.

“College might be expensive, but 235 college freshman are entering this school year armed with checks to use at their local independent bookstore on any books they want,” Patterson said. “Let your high school seniors who come through your store know about College Book Bucks, so they might enjoy the same shopping spree next year.”

To enter the contest, students answered the question “How has your favorite book inspired you toward what you’d like to do in life?” The winning essays were selected by Patterson and select members from his board. First- and second-place essays can be read in full on Patterson’s official website.

Common Good Books in St. Paul, Minnesota, is among the stores where winners will be redeeming this year’s College Books Bucks scholarships. “We’re really appreciative of being chosen by the scholarship winners,” said manager Martin Schmutterer. “We have had one of our winners come in and really make use of the scholarship. He’s purchased a good mix of texts and leisure reading, and it’s been a pleasure getting to know him.”

Tempe, Arizona’s Changing Hands Bookstore was also chosen by several scholarship winners. Store co-owner Cindy Dach said, “We’re really proud to have so many winners in our own state and thrilled that they selected Changing Hands. With James Patterson’s help, we’re able to provide the next generation access to books and ideas.”

Conor Davidson, one of College Book Bucks’ first-place winners, is using his $1,000 in a unique way to benefit both young readers and his hometown bookstore, bbgb books in Richmond, Virginia, as well as his college-town indie, Books & Books in Coral Gables, Florida. While still in high school, Davidson created Brother Reader, a public service project to encourage elementary school boys to get excited about reading. Now as he heads off to college, Conor is leaving the successful program in the hands of his mother and younger brother, and he is spending a portion of his scholarship winnings to create a robust library of titles for future program participants.

Booksellers at bbgb worked with sales reps to create a collection for Brother Reader that includes fairy tales, language development books, memoirs, quirky character stories, and classic crowd-pleasers, all certain to appeal to young boys. “Conor’s enthusiasm was contagious, and we can’t wait for him to collect his 10 sets of 10 books — we know the boys will love them!” said bbgb’s Jenesse Evertson. “We were so pleased to be involved and be able to draw on our experience with children to create a collection that balances laughs with longevity. What a fantastic opportunity for us.”

Though most College Books Bucks winners have already designated the stores where they wish to spend their gift certificates, some still have not. “Some winners are still getting back to us with their bookstore choices for this year, so your store may yet be designated as a recipient of College Book Bucks scholarship funds,” said ABA’s Carolyn Bennett, who is working with James Patterson’s staff to notify stores. “Details about next year’s contest are not yet available, but if you can count any bright high-school seniors as part of your customer base, we encourage you to let him or her know about this program.”