Beyond the Gideons Bible

Some of Bedside Reading's offerings.
Hotels now carry the newest releases, thanks to bookworm Jane Ubell-Meyer.

Forgot to bring your book with you while on vacation or on a business trip and have nothing to read? That won’t happen if you’re staying at a luxury hotel where Stamford resident and self-proclaimed “book-ie” Jane Ubell-Meyer has provided Bedside Reading. The program offers newly released books to hotels so that guests have best sellers waiting for them in their rooms and can even take them home. And the best part is that, unlike the minibar, it’s totally free.

Ubell-Meyer works with a team of avid readers to pick out the perfect books, which are then approved by the hotels. Books come from an array of publishing companies, including HarperCollins, Macmillan, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Penguin Random House, along with a variety of independent publishers, authors and speakers’ bureaus. “Our goal is to pass on books that we resonate with and love,” Ubell-Meyer says.

“The roots of Bedside Reading date back to 2002 when I placed ‘Buzz Bags’ full of free books and products on the Hampton Jitney,” she adds. The gifting program, created by her company Madison & Mulholland, got huge attention and was featured in articles that appeared in such major publications as The New York Times and Entrepreneur magazine.

Soon afterward, Ubell-Meyer got a call from United Airlines to do its luxury gift bags for first- and business-class passengers, and she also was hired to create swag bags for the Grammy Awards and other special celebrity events for Hollywood’s film, music and TV nominees and winners.

While she was busy at her job, Ubell-Meyer says she decided last March to go back to the one thing that she had always loved, which was “books and reading.

“I had been doing the tote bags in the Hamptons for years, which quickly evolved from being placed on the jitney to being offered in hotel rooms. This time around I decided to place my focus on the books.

“If you’ve published a book, you want it read in the Hamptons — by the beach and at the pool — and you want people to talk about it. So why not go to the hotels, where people from all around Manhattan are coming for the summer to stay?”

Last Labor Day, when she did her last Hamptons’ “Buzz Bag,” Ubell-Meyer realized there was an increased demand by the publishers she worked with to distribute their books, so she decided to take her program to a national level. She first called up the Mandarin Oriental in Manhattan and asked if she could launch Bedside Reading at the hotel.

Having worked with Ubell-Meyer before on other projects, the Mandarin was more than happy to oblige. Her first books offered there were The New York Times’ best sellers “The Golden House” by Salman Rushdie and “Tell Me More: Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say” by Kelly Corrigan. The books were such a huge success that the hotel could hardly keep enough on hand to pass on to their guests.

Ubell-Meyers’ business quickly expanded and she was soon offering Beside Reading at hotels across the country, from the Acqualina Resort & Spa in Sunny Isles Beach just north of Miami to the Mandarin Oriental, Washington, D.C., and, in California, at Shutters on the Beach and Casa del Mar in Santa Monica as well as the Waldorf Astoria in Beverly Hills.

Each month new books are placed in all of the participating hotels’ rooms and suites. “Every hotel gets different books so it’s not just about finding a book and placing it in a hotel. It’s finding the right book and matching it with the right hotel. I would say that it’s almost like pairing wine and cheese,” Ubell-Meyer says.

She points out that her company is helping its authors by providing them visibility and access to people who are connected socially and in the business world. “The guests staying at five-star hotels are CEOs, decision-makers and influencers. We’re giving the authors’ books to these people who then, if the book appeals to them, could turn around and hire the writers as consultants and bring them in as keynote speakers,” Ubell-Meyer says.

Also, there’s nothing better than word of mouth when it comes to promoting a book. Many of the books picked up at hotels have been brought into book clubs and shared with friends. “People love to talk about the great books they are reading, that’s part of who we are,” she says. “In addition, many of the hotels promote the books in their newsletters and on social media.”

Ubell-Meyer has already started to expand her business. At the Acqualina, she has worked with the hotel to start Bedside Reading Children, where each month the selected book is read during a live story hour. The hotel also likes fiction and business books, which she is more than happy to supply.

A rebranded Bedside Reading Hamptons launched this Memorial Day at seven hotels, including The Maidstone in East Hampton and the White Fences Inn in Water Mill. While the Hamptons books feature best-selling fiction, nonfiction, memoirs and business publications, Ubell-Meyer says she is also “adding a number of emerging and independent authors to the list to help spread the word about their great talent.”

Plans also include a fall launch of Bedside Reading Business in five-star business hotels (such as the Conrad New York) with books by such respected authors as Jeffrey Magee, Travis Bradberry and Leah Weiss, among others. In addition, a Beside Reading Beach is planned for next spring with romance, thrillers and light beach reads for vacation enjoyment.

When asked why she founded Bedside Reading, Ubell-Meyer says, “Where else can I have a job that I get paid to do what I love? This is like a candy store for me and I get to pick all the candy that I want.”
She adds, “I’m a book addict. I read all the time, and books have changed my life. This job really feeds my soul. And, if I get a chance to give back to an author and help them out, that’s a win-win for me.”

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