Lit bits

Like Amazon.com - but free.

The Sabre Foundation gets vast quantities of books to those who need them around the world.

Imagine a dozen oceangoing containers, each with about 12,000 books, CD-ROMs, and other educational materials. Under a US State Department books donation program, their destinations are Afghanistan, Algeria, Indonesia, Morocco, Pakistan, and Somalia. The books are not used throwaways. They are new books selected by Sabre's partner organizations in those countries.

The way the Sabre Foundation (www.sabre.org), based in Cambridge, Mass., sees it, these objectives will be addressed: "promoting American values and goodwill, advancing familiarity with the English language, encouraging democratization, opening markets for the US publishing industry, and creating and supporting local partner NGOs."

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Beyond the current State Department venture, Sabre's support comes from individuals and corporations. More than 200 publishers have played a part in its book-donation program. Sabre chooses books likely to be of interest to those in need abroad. It ships only titles and quantities requested (hence, the Amazon.com comparison), and its rule of thumb is that "something which is of no value in the US is usually equally valueless overseas."

A "Lit bits" reporter has run into Sabre at meetings on behalf of education in Liberia. Though founded in 1969, it seems known mainly to those who contribute to it or benefit from it.

Everybody's 100 these days.

Former US poet laureate Stanley Kunitz is turning 100 with a new book, "The Wild Braid," and his famous garden.

The Princeton University Press is turning 100 with the publication of "A Century of Books."

And, right on our doorstep, at the Boston Public Library, Boston's Society of Printers is celebrating its 100th with a smashing exhibition, "Boston Ink: A Century of Printing 1905 to 2005" (to June 24). Pivotal names, graphics, and typefaces abound. Tucked in too, to be parochial, is a vintage copy of The Christian Science Journal, classically simple in colorful company.

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