Speed Reads

It wasn't all bad

Baltimore book lovers come together to rebuild charity destroyed by fire

A man drops off books at The Book Thing.

It doesn't matter if customers at Baltimore's The Book Thing take home one book or 100, as it all costs the same: $0.

Every book inside The Book Thing is free, and there's no limit to how many books people can walk out the door with — some teachers are known to fill up several boxes to use in their classrooms, while casual readers might just grab one or two tomes off the shelves. Russell Wattenberg has been running The Book Thing for 17 years, never charging a dime for anything. "It cuts down on robberies," he joked to CBS News' Steve Hartman. "We encourage shoplifters."

In March 2016, a fire ripped through The Book Thing, with all of its inventory going up in smoke. It didn't take long for the community to rally together, bringing Wattenberg cash donations and holding fundraisers to help rebuild; so many books have been donated that Wattenberg still has 7,000 boxes to go through. The Book Thing reopened in October, and there's never a shortage of customers. "I don't have the patience to teach somebody to read," Wattenberg said. "I don't have the diligence to be a writer. The only way I see to contribute to the written word is by doing this." Catherine Garcia