Can a book change the world?

As a publisher, reading books or manuscripts is a part of my daily routine.

It was while doing precisely this, a few years ago, that I read a book titled Giving, by Bill Clinton. The book left a lasting impression on me. But I can't find that book anywhere now. Still, I remember the book's message: No matter whether it is an individual, organization or private institution, anyone can make the world a better place in our small ways.

Another book that motivated me was Leaving Microsoft to Change the World, by John Wood. I was impressed by Wood's commitment to changing society by establishing libraries in Nepal and elsewhere. And what a profound change he has been! Luckily enough, I happened to be the publisher of the book in Nepali translation, titled Microsoft Dekhi Bahundanda Samma.

I was also impressed by the work of Bono, the lead singer of the U2 band, who, through the RED Campaign, involves iconic brands to create unique red version products and donates the proceeds towards helping people affected by global health emergencies. After knowing about the social work of these individuals and RED campaign associate private companies, I learnt that we could fulfil our social responsibility by doing our job well, no matter our size.

As Dr. Koirala’s book was in the pipeline, he once asked me, “How much royalty will I earn from Hridaya, Niraj?”

Usually, I don't get such a question from authors. I was not expecting it from him either. Still, I said, “We’ll probably sell 20,000 copies of your book. If we sell it for Rs.500 a copy, you will earn around Rs2 million.” We ended up pricing it Rs. 575. Then he said, “I would have liked to donate the entire royalty to the Kathmandu Institute of Child Health (KIOCH). It is my dream project aimed at providing quality healthcare to children through a dedicated hospital, But the book is my own, and I do not have solid financial means. I have worked throughout my career at a government hospital except for a brief stint at a private one. As I grow older, I also worry about my savings. So I will keep half the royalty and donate half of it to the hospital. Will that be okay?”

I was touched by Dr. Koirala's commitment to the cause. And it made me think if I could play a supporting role in his noble initiative. The royalty amount wouldn't have made a dent in Rs. 1.6 billion required to build a hospital. When I returned home after meeting with him, I thought: This man helped establish the Gangalal Heart Institute and served at a few institutes in which we can take pride. He has conducted over 14-15,000 heart surgeries as of now, including that of monarchs, leaders and commoners. Most importantly, he is known as a man of integrity and social standing. I knew it wouldn't be difficult to rope in a few thousand people to support his noble initiative if we had the right approach.

I started thinking about how I could play a supporting role in this initiative, and that is how I came up with the idea of a limited edition of his book. I shared my vision with him and was pleased to know that he shared my enthusiasm for creating a unique product. The most crucial part of the process was to decide on how we could add value to the book and the price tag of the limited edition. Dr. Koirala even suggested that we publish the book without a price tag and give the book to donors. But I disagreed. I wanted to ensure that the book generated a substantial contribution on its own, reflected by a definite amount. The special edition would be published only once, and each copy would have a unique number, certified by Dr. Koirala himself. This would be new for Nepal, and I want to create a benchmark.

I asked Dr. Koirala how much it would cost to build a block or a unit in the hospital. At least five crore rupees, he said. Then I thought the book should at least help build a block or a unit. We would publish 2,000 copies of the book and sell them for Rs25,000 each. And with the money raised, we would help build a block named 'Hridaya'. This is how we decided to price it Rs. 25,000. When Dr. Koirala told this to his friends in America, they apparently told him that 500 copies could be sold in the country. So we raised the print run to 2,500 copies, and aimed to raise Rs6.25 crore through book sales.

The total budget of the central hospital in Kathmandu is Rs 1.06 billion. We cannot match the 1 billion of the budget but could match the 0.6 million at the end. We often think of doing good deeds in our lives. But it isn't easy to translate those thoughts into action. But how to do it? I grabbed the opportunity to contribute to Dr. Koirala's noble initiative through the publication of this book. Ours is a small effort to support the cause through the book, but we know it is inadequate. However, if we could bring together individuals and institutions that are more capable than us, it is not at all difficult to fulfill Dr. Koirala’s dream of building a super speciality hospital for children.

We were children and grandchildren once. We might have our children or grandchildren now or someday. Let's come together to build the foundation for a state-of-the-art children's hospital so our children can receive quality health care in Nepal. Let's build something great for the future.

Niraj Bhari

Publisher & Co-Founder FinePrint Books