Prentiss Riddle: Austin

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Bibliophile fun at Inside Books' work party

Thanks to a reminder from Kathryn I volunteered today at Inside Books, the Austin group that sends books to inmates in Texas prisons.

It was a pleasure. I finally got to put all my years of used-bookstore-scrounging skills toward a worthy cause. Interpreting the prisoners' requests and finding a rough match on the shelves is more challenging than it sounds. When they ask for a specific title or author that isn't available, you get to substitute something else you think they'd like -- a job that made me wish more than once for's recommendation engine in a PDA, but that would have taken the fun out of it.

Inside Books Project

Now I feel inspired not only to go back for Inside Books' regular Sunday and Thursday mailout parties, but also to start prowling garage sales and thrift stores for cheap books in the categories they need. They have a great collection -- there were a lot of books I wish I could have brought home myself! -- but they can't keep up with the demand for paperback dictionaries, thesauruses, Spanish-English dictionaries, and blank journals. Seems like they could also use more good African-American fiction and non-fiction and more puzzle and game books, among other categories. For more info on volunteering or donating, contact Inside books at 512-647-4803 or insidebooksproject[at]

The girls came along for part of the time and helped by drawing pictures for the prisoners and blacking out return addresses on some recycled envelopes. Then they got to go out back and pet the turkey in the Rhizome Collective's meadow. The Rhizome site houses not only Inside Books but the Food Not Bombs kitchen, the Bikes Across Borders bike recycling project and some wild anarchic gardens, among other things.

austin 2004.05.15 link


that's a really good idea. I wonder if there's something like that here. I love to scrounge used books and especially to predict what someone might like. (Often wrong, but fun.)

badgerbag [lizzard cxe bookmaniac punkto net] • 2004.05.18
Here are some lists of such projects around the country. I'm not sure which is most current, so I'll link to several:

Books to prisoners projects (Prison Legal News)

Prison book program directory (Books Through Bars)

Book project links (Prisoners Literature Project)

Prentiss Riddle [riddle cxe io punkto com] • 2004.05.18
A great place to get cheap books is the Westbank Community Library: Most books are less than $1.

And the Half-Price Books tent sales are awesome, but not very frequent. I got about 40 books for $27 books at the sale yesterday. :)

Kelly [shinybluegrasshopper cxe spamcop punkto net] • 2004.05.23
I've gone a few more times to Inside Books' volunteer sessions on Sunday and Thursday evenings and I'm still having a good time.

Latest category for which there is a dire need: good introductory language texts, especially but not solely for Spanish. The Inside Books shelves are overflowing with workbook supplements lacking the matching texts and with third-year texts when we need first-year ones. Oh, yeah, and with Turkish phrasebooks. If we ever get a request from someone about to be extradited to Turkey we're all set.

I've seen requests for Spanish, French, German and "any language". The last one was a puzzle. I wound up sending lightweight Teach-Yourself-style books for Arabic, German and Russian (what we had on hand) and inviting the recipient to write back for more advanced study materials when he'd picked one of those.

Prentiss Riddle [riddle cxe io punkto com] • 2004.05.31
For some reason Google lists me as the first hit for "inside-books austin", so I figured I should add some more useful contact and volunteer info.

There's a good description of Inside Books' work and their need for volunteers at the Austin Volunteer Center site.

(Inside Books' own website could use an update.)

Prentiss Riddle [riddle cxe io punkto com] • 2004.12.01
Inside Books has just had a Christmas fundraiser and got $1,800 to mail about 800 packages of books to Texas prisoners for Christmas.
They still have a backlog of requests and should endeavor to raise more postage money to catch up so that letters from prisoners can be dealt with in a timely manner. I am in S Texas and cannot help with packaging but am very interested in the project and will try to raise more funds for postage.
Most people here have never heard of Inside Books. There are people capable of helping with donations and also families with someone in prison who need to know about this service.
First, we need to know how many unanswered requests are piled up.

\ [LHrusk816 cxe AOL punkto com] • 2004.12.29
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