Every year around the holidays, people love to share how they’re celebrating, what they are cooking, how they are decorating, what gifts they’re giving, what’s on their wishlist. We all know there’s something magical about this time of year, but it’s even more special to spend it with people you love and care about, especially in an age where the digital world is rapidly changing and advancing.
Seven years ago, Penguin Random House wanted to find a new way to embrace this human connection and get into the holiday spirit. There’s nothing that a Penguin Random House employee loves more than talking about books and sharing book recommendations with people. And so the Penguin Hotline was born.
The Penguin Hotline—found at www.penguinhotline.com—is a website where readers can request book recommendations for someone special in their lives. Simply tell the Hotline a bit about what the book lover likes to read, watch, and do for fun, and the Hotline volunteers at the other end craft a special list of curated book recommendations made just for that person. The books they recommend come from all publishers and are truly meant to reflect the perfect read for each person. We like to think of them as holiday elves—or penguins—helping to spread book magic from behind the scenes.
The Hotline began with fewer than 50 employee volunteers and has since grown to several hundred. Volunteers come from across all departments and job functions at the company—from editorial to production to legal to marketing to publicity—but what each one has in common is a deep love and knowledge of books and a desire to share them with others.
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Every year, consumers rave in response to the book recommendations they receive back from the Hotline, many of them expressing shock and awe that the notes have very obviously come from a thoughtful human being and not an algorithm or online generator. People have told us that the emails they get from the Hotline have made their holiday season, and many race to fill out another request—for another special person or for themselves:
“As someone who has worked in various leadership roles in e-commerce (but also with an English degree who’s married to an English teacher), I’m literally staggered by this email. It’s incredibly thoughtful and helpful and brings the human expertise and warmth to the convenience of the digital experience. Wow, Penguin. Wow. This is a 5-star experience.”
“I just wanted to say that this was one of the best emails I have ever received, and it made my week. I maaaay have filled this form out for myself, thinking I should, in true Parks and Rec style, ‘Treat myself.’ These books all seem incredible and I am aching to know this wonderful human being’s full list of favorite books…The Penguin Hotline, I can imagine, is quite work-intensive, but it’s absolutely amazing and I think could truly make a difference to people wanting to read more.”
This year, the Penguin Hotline has also partnered with We Need Diverse Books, an organization focused on putting more books featuring diverse characters into the hands of all children.
So, if you’re feeling stumped this year about which gifts to give—don’t think twice. Head to the Penguin Hotline anytime from December 2nd to December 16th, tell them who you’re shopping for, and let the Penguin elves recommend the perfect gift. They’re excited to hear from you and help you find books that will surprise and delight the people on your gift list! Happy Shopping!