A bit about Amazon.com’s $44K grant to Words without Borders

By Joshua Mandelbaum

Today I have the great pleasure of announcing that Words without Borders is the recipient of a $44,000 grant from Amazon.com. This grant, the largest they’ve given to date, will cover all our author and translator fees for 2011 and allow us to raise our payments to both. Amazon.com is now our second largest institutional supporter after the Lannan Foundation.

For a small organization weathering difficult economic times, a grant like this—one that covers a major portion of our operating costs—has a tremendous impact. The board and staff of Words without Borders thank Amazon.com for their support of Words without Borders and literature in translation.

As you can see in today’s press release we are one of many organizations now receiving grants from Amazon.com. Few foundations or corporate giving programs focus on literature. Those of us fundraising for literary nonprofits are aware that the promotion of literary prose and poetry does not, rightly, carry the same urgency as providing clean water and food to impoverished parts of the world or helping the victims of natural disasters. However, the important work of Words without Borders and that of other literary nonprofits helps shape our culture and even our politics. Many of us have found a new ally in Amazon.com.

I know some people consider Amazon.com’s business practices antithetical to our efforts, and see these grants as smoke and mirrors. The truth, I believe, is more complicated. The problems and struggles of literary publishing are not the fault of any one company or organization, and solutions must be taken up by the publishing community as a whole, including the reader. If Amazon.com sees fit to use its success to support organizations that advocate for writers and poets from around the world who struggle to find a place in an industry that awards huge advances for the autobiographies of sixteen-year-old pop stars but finds literature in translation unmarketable, I cannot see their grant program as anything but much welcomed and needed support.

If you would like to join Amazon.com, the Lannan Foundation, the NEA, our other institutional supporters, and the many, many generous individuals who help make Words without Borders possible, please visit our “donate” page to find out how you can make a contribution today.


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