Some of our devotees wanted to go out to distribute books door-to-door yesterday, Saturday.
I asked them to be extremely careful, by:
Staying at least 6 feet away from people when speaking to them. Sanitizing their hands after *every* interaction. Being vigilant to not touch their faces at at any time.
This group of distributors reported that, uncharacteristically, 95% of people opened their doors to speak with them. Most of them took books very enthusiastically, saying: “While we have to stay in, we are eager for something to read.” Among the many books sold were 5 full sets for Srimad-Bhagavatam.
At one door, the residents did not open their door, but they were very interested to speak to the devotees; so, they spoke to them through their video door bell. After hearing what the devotees were offering, the residents said they wanted to buy a set of Srimad- Bhagavatam. So, they asked the devotees to place the SB box on the porch. The residents then opened their door, took the set, and left the payment in an envelope in its place. Kind of like distributing in a leper colony.
This morning, we had a conference call with the North American Sankirtana Leader’s Team (NASLT), with thirty leaders in attendance. For an hour, we discussed inventive ways to distribute books during this pandemic, including a discussions about how to distribute books through the Internet. (I will report more about this if any of our experiments give tangible results.) One way that has already been successful over the last few years has been online Sastra Dana. People give donations electronically to help distribute books, and the donations realized through this method are used to buy BBT books that are then delivered to hotels, hospitals, and other institutions. People are reading them.
We also discussed increasing Smart Box placements. Smart Box is the little manual book vending system we’ve used for many years: it’s a display that holds a rack of books and also accepts donations, and which can be placed in various businesses. In Silicon Valley, we have about 120 Smart Boxes set up in various stores. Many NA communities are using them also. Periodically, a devotee goes around to pick up the cash and to replenish the book supply.
During our NASLT meeting, we also came to a conclusion that during this time, devotees can be encouraged to spend more time reading Srila Prabhupada’s books together, which many are doing online, through Skype, Zoom and other electronic means. One of the devotees on the call told us about how his community started doing all their home programs (Bhakta vrksa) online now.
Speaking of electronic presentations. On Friday at noon, we invited many corporate people (whom we usually visit in person at Google, Salesforce, and Intel) to join a Zoom call. 160 people joined the call, as almost everyone is working from home. All of them were eager to hear. The title of the presentation was: “Fearlessness through Awareness. Secrets to overcoming fear and anxiety.” We are finding that many of these listeners are interesting in taking books.
In summary. Although a small team went out once from our temple, taking extreme precautions, my personal sense is that it might be wisest for book distributors to take a short break from interacting with the public and emphasize developing contacts through electronic means.