This Program Is Teaming Up with Hotels to Give Guests Free Books

If you stay in the right hotel, you might find the latest best-selling book on your nightstand. And you can take it with you—for free.

White nightstand with wire lampshade and large incandescent bulb standing next to a pile of books in blue cover, one of which is lying

You’ve just checked into your hotel, gone up to your room, and plopped on the bed. All you need now is a little time to relax with a good book—except you forgot yours. Depending on the hotel you chose, your problem may be solved by a quick glance at the nightstand: A program to put books in hotels is taking off around the country, and it’s making stays away from home even more hospitable.

Jane Ubell-Meyer, founder of the celebrity gifting business Madison and Mulholland, tells Forbes that she came up with the idea back in 2002 but didn’t try it out until 2005: She worked with the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in New York to place best-selling books bedside in hotel rooms—a project she called Bedside Reading. The program was hugely popular with readers, the hotel, and publishers, but Ubell-Meyer didn’t have the bandwidth to keep it going at the time, letting the program subside after a year.

But in 2018 she picked it up again. “I reminded myself of my passion for reading books,” she tells Forbes. She contacted the Mandarin Oriental Hotel and restarted Bedside Reading. She’s now added a total of seven hotels: Acqualina Resort & Spa, Mandarin Oriental New York, Mandarin Oriental DC, Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills, Shutters on the Beach and Hotel Casa del Mar in Santa Monica, and The Simpson House Inn in Santa Barbara. But Ubell-Meyer says they’ll be adding two more hotels this year—one of which is the Dream Inn in Santa Cruz—and she’s researching potential hotels in Toronto.

Here’s the best part: The books are free. That’s right—just like the Gideon’s Bible, you can take the book with you when you leave. Publishers donate the books because they appreciate the promotion Ubell-Meyer and Bedside Reading can do for their titles. She says it’s easy for her to get behind the books because she and her staff handpick the ones they like.

The hotels typically stock between one and three books per room, and Ubell-Meyer rotates the titles on a monthly basis. Most of the titles are advance copies, which means the guests won’t have had a chance to read them—and they’ll be exposed to new literature. The relaunch featured “New York Times bestselling authors, Salman Rushdie, with The Golden House, and Kelly Corrigan’s Tell Me More. What a great way to start the program!” she says. Bedside Reading offers more benefits than people realize.

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