The Trustees of ISKCON’s publishing arm, the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, have modified their “book point” system, unchanged since 1989, to eliminate the now negligible difference between hard and softcover books.
The point system emerged in 1974 with the first issue of the “Sankirtan Newsletter,” a publication which keeps track of book distribution around the world and compares overall results. A lengthy list of editors modified its format many times until 1989, when current editor Mayapur Sasi Dasa came onboard.
“The point system is based on a standard sized big hardcover book being one point,” he explains. “Smaller books get less points and bigger books get more points, based on the number of pages.”
Although points have nothing to do with money collected or book costs, there is an indirect relationship between the two since the books have to be paid for, and since bigger books cost more than smaller ones. So 1,000 points in the Sankirtana Newsletter is equivalent to 1,000 big books distributed.
“Book points, as imperfect as they are, are necessary because there is just no other way to compare overall book distribution results easily and fairly,” Mayapur Sasi explains. “Distributing 100 magazines is just not the same as distributing 100 hardcover Bhagavad Gitas. While both are important, there is a big difference in terms of individual effort involved, both mentally and physically, and the donations required to cover the cost of the books."
He adds, "The funds collected have never been included in the newsletter as it is too problematic due to the wide variations in economic conditions that exist in the different countries of the world."
The newsletter's simplified new point system, in effect from January 1, 2009, gives:
0.1 points for magazines (10-50 pages)
0.25 points for small books (50-150 pages)
0.5 points for medium books (150-300 pages)
1.0 points for big books (300-500 pages)
2.0 points for extra big books (500+ pages)
2.5 points for 1 year Back to Godhead magazine subscriptions (non-English)
5.0 points for 1 year Back to Godhead magazine subscriptions (English)
Readers of the Sankirtan Newsletter will not notice any change, while devotees sending in their scores will now no longer have to keep track of hard and softcover books separately.