Book Donations

"Supporting Literacy for Anyone Who Wants To Read And Learn"

What is The Bookman?

The Bookman is a global charitable organization based in San Diego, California. A registered 501(c)3 charity, The Bookman supports a wide variety of literacy programs across the United States.

Operated with all volunteer labor, the organization at one time gave away almost one million new and used books per year, primarily to groups and agencies serving the underprivileged, to teachers, to our military veterans, families, and active-duty troops, and to other charitable groups. However, in March of 2014, the organization was forced to close its warehouse and no longer redistributes books. Since its creation in 1990, The Bookman has given away more than 8 million books to people in San Diego County and through local charities, to every state and 70 other countries.

...he has given away - FREE - an estimated 8 million books around the world...

How did this happen?

How did it come about? Irwin Herman, a San Carlos resident, retired from his appliance repair business in Chicago In 1988 and moved to San Diego with his wife, Shirley. In 1990 apparently at loose ends, he went along one day with a friend who did outreach at the local jails. At that time he learned the prisoners needed reading material so he provided some books and was amazed at how grateful the recipients were. Thus began "Irwin the Bookman."

Irwin Herman, the original "Bookman"

Irwin began going around to yard sales buying books and accepting book donations that he was offered, and started accumulating an inventory. First, he filled up his own garage and then cajoled neighbors into letting him use some of their garage space. He worked out of garages for six years, expanding his book giving from jails to schools to homeless shelters. In 1998 he was offered the current warehouse space by the late Jack Grace who until then had been offering Irwin space in several garages he owned. As for the prisoners, The Bookman now donates more than a quarter of a million paperback books each year to detention centers, jails, and prisons throughout Southern California.

The Bookman is a 501(c)(3) charitable foundation, so gifts are tax-deductible.

In April 1998, The Fabulous Five - John Carlson, Ron Blair, Bob Bradley, Lou Ferrero and Bill Lynch - each chipped in $5,000 to buy a van for Irwin. Carlson and Lynch pay for the gas. Blair and Ferraro are also members of The San Diego Nice Guys , another Bookman support group. An additional $5,000 came from a local San Diego women's group, Las Patronas. When the van was destroyed in an accident in early 2006, the Nice Guys and Las Patronas again came up with the money for a new one. In 2003/4, the international publishing firm of Reed-Elsevier donated $20,000 to purchase new bookshelves, allowing Irwin to increase storage space and improve productivity, and in 2004 a donation was received from the Simpson Family Donor Advised Fund at the Rancho Santa Fe Foundation. None of the income goes for staff, only literacy programs, as the entire operation is run on donations and volunteer labor.

In addition to donations listed above, The Bookman is funded on an annual basis by generous financial donations from a number of generous individuals and groups, our donors, and is supported on a non-financial basis by several organizations such as uLine, JChoice, and WheatMark Book Publishers.

Book giveaway table at the 2011 Nice Guys Christmas Party at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego.

Once a week The Bookman has a successor charity drop off 1-3,000 free used books at the bookstore at San Diego City College where passers-by eagerly pick them up, and another 150 books to the AlphaProject's Neil Good Center. In addition, in 2005, The Bookman donated 30,000 books to Gulf Coast states to restock libraries destroyed during Hurricane Katrina. The Bookman also supports the Birthday Book Foundation, a group dedicated to building reading libraries in school classrooms, and Rolling Readers the group whose 300+ volunteers read to school children. We have also donated books to Books for Treats, a group dedicated to distributing books at Hallowe'en instead of candy, and to Pazzaz, a group that encourages reading in San Diego's disadvantaged communities. On the international front The Bookman has helped rebuild the library in Kabul after the fall of the Taliban, shipped nursing reference books to the Hue Medical School in Vietnam, donated more than 2,000 books to the American Intercon Institute, a K-12 English language school in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, given 15,000 books to the Francis Papica Foundation for delivery to Paranaque, Philippines, 12,000 books to Nigeria, both directly and through the World Outreach Church and Rotary International, 35,000 books to Ghana, 5,000 to Sierra Leone, and smaller amounts to Nicaragua and Kenya, and in six donations more than 100,000 books to a variety of schools in the Philippines.

Where did the books come from?

In addition to book donations from the general public all across America, bookstores, libraries, Rescue Mission, Polinsky Center for Children, and publishers such as Reed-Elsevier, Harcourt, Hachette Book Group, and More Magazine, The Bookman also bought material from yard sales, used bookstores, and publisher remainders. Two of the most generous bookstores are Adams Avenue Books and Bluestocking Books, both of San Diego. Almost one-quarter of the annual turnover consisted of purchased material. Possibly as amazing as the amount of material received and donated is the fact that all the work of sorting and shelving was accomplished by three unpaid people: Irwin, Don Schulz, a retired bookstore owner, and Tony Ross, a retired publishing executive, all of whom come in 2-4 days a week.

To see a YouTube video on The Bookman, click here.

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Last updated April 19, 2014