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Operation Paperback: A Wonderful but Lesser-Known Military Charity

Tamara Wilhite is a technical writer, industrial engineer, mother of two, and published sci-fi and horror author.

Operation Paperback is a great way to support the troops.

Operation Paperback is a great way to support the troops.

What Is Operation Paperback?

Operation Paperback is a charity that sends books and magazines to soldiers and their families. This is invaluable for people on the front lines who can’t stream the latest video, aren’t close to a library, and are nowhere near a movie theater. For their families, it is a pleasant reminder that the world hasn’t forgotten them and gives them free entertainment. Operation Paperback lets volunteers send books to the VA hospitals, too.

Operation Paperback also accepts financial donations to buy books in high-demand genres, specifically requested titles, and pay for the shipping of these items.

How to Help Operation Paperback

Operation Paperback requires you to sign up before you can send books to soldiers and their families. Organizations can sign up to sign books, as well as individuals.

How do you send books through Operation Paperback? You request addresses of military service members or their families, one group at a time, through the website and the genre of books you have to ship. You can even select one genre for a single book you’d like to send out. Operation Paperback has template letters to send with the shipments and labels to use for the packages. You verify the shipments that you send, and then you can request more.

Note: if you select to send books to soldiers, you’ll need to state whether or not you want to include VA hospitals.

If you send reading materials through Operation Paperback, the materials are shipped at media mail rates. You don’t have to pay international mail rates even if you’re sending material to people stationed overseas since military addresses are always considered domestic addresses. These international shipments do require a customs form to be filled out.

The media rate is for reading materials. If you put, for example, cards, games, or candy into your shipment, the U.S. Post Office charges you a higher shipping rate for the whole lot—even if it is still 90% books and magazines.

Can You Send Books to Operation Paperback?

In short, no. You can send the books to the people who request them or money to the organization that then organizes their shipment, but they don’t have a physical address to which you can send books for them to then distribute.

What Types of Books Does Operation Paperback Want?

The real question is, what books do the soldiers and their families want? Science fiction, mysteries, best-selling fiction, personal finance books, history books, and current event books are popular.

Children’s books are often requested by their families, as well as young adult fiction. Romance novels are almost never requested.

One of the benefits of donating a book to a soldier is that the book will likely be read by 20 others in the same group, not just the person that requests it. Thus books that have broad appeal are especially enjoyed.

What Do You Get in Return?

First and foremost, you know you are supporting the troops in a direct and personal way.

It is rare for soldiers to send a thank-you note back to the senders, though I have received more than one. More often, they send thank-you notes to Operation Paperback itself.

If you send books to a VA hospital, you should receive a charitable donation record you can use for tax purposes. If you send books to several different VA hospitals, you’ll get back several letters acknowledging the donations.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: Where do I find the template letters for Operation Paperback?

Answer: Once you log into the "volunteer's corner" of the Operation Paperback website, they're available under Print Labels & Letters.