Climate book offer


in Books and literature, Internet matters, Writing

Having personally populated a small library full of books on climate change, I can say with some authority that James Hansen’s book Storms Of My Grandchildren makes a substantial contribution to the debate, partly because of the clarity of his thinking and expression.

As such, and in the interests of improving debate here, I am willing to make the following offer:

Basically, if you are an active member of this community and you will read the book, I will send you a copy.

More specifically:

  1. People requesting a copy must have actively and constructively participated in past discussions on this site (to be judged by me alone)
  2. They must also be willing to read the book, or pay me back for the book and shipping in the event that they do not.
  3. Copies will probably be shipped to people via the US, Canadian, or UK versions of Amazon. I may send them by another means, if a cheaper alternative is available, however.
  4. Any copies shipped outside those places will be shipped at the expense of the recipient.
  5. To begin with, I will pay for no more than eight copies.
  6. I reserve the right to cancel the offer at any time.

People who can afford to are encouraged to buy the book themselves, rather than take advantage of this offer. Hardcover copies are on Amazon for $19.44 Canadian.

[Update: 5 February 2010] My review of Hansen’s book is online.

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{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

R.K. February 3, 2010 at 9:37 pm

That is a nice offer, but I can get it from the library.

Tristan February 4, 2010 at 1:47 am

I wonder what such an offer would feature if I were giving it.

Milan February 4, 2010 at 8:02 am

Do you have any interest in taking this one up? I’d say this is the climate change book to read right now.

Also, when you finished with it, you could lend it to other people in your co-op.

Emily February 4, 2010 at 12:29 pm

Send one over!

Though, whenever I read one of these books, I feel like you need a self-help group more than a book club to discuss it in.

Same difference in the end, I suppose.

Milan February 4, 2010 at 12:41 pm

Copy #1 dispatched.

This book is definitely a bracing read, but it contains a lot of new information as well. In particular, it says some important things about how those concerned about climate change may be getting climate policy badly wrong.

BuddyRich February 4, 2010 at 2:54 pm

I’ll take you up on your offer, but would rather you give the ~$20 to the Sierra Club or other Environmental charity of your choice and I’ll get the book from the library. Actually donating a copy of the book to the OPL might be the best use of the money AND sharing the message.

I’m hold number 14. With the OPL having 11 copies I should get it in about 2 weeks or within the month at most. I’ll also keep an eye out for it on the express read rack.

I will say I applaud your commitment in both your bus trip and now this.

Milan February 4, 2010 at 2:56 pm

The Ottawa Public Library has 11 copies on order.

Once it comes in, I will see how long a waiting list builds up. If it’s significant (right now, it is just 14 people), I will send them a couple of copies.

That’s a rather good idea, by the way.

BuddyRich February 4, 2010 at 3:18 pm

I didn’t notice the on order part. Hopefully it comes in soon.

Milan February 4, 2010 at 3:20 pm

Would they accept a used copy?

If so, I could send you one and you could pass it along after reading it.

zoom February 4, 2010 at 5:20 pm

Okay, I’m number 15 on the OPL hold list. Which is good, because I’ve got a stack of reading to do before I can get to that one.

Just out of curiosity, how much scientific knowledge is required to appreciate this book?

Milan February 4, 2010 at 5:23 pm

Very little. While there are technical sections, Hansen always tells you where you can skip to if you don’t care to read them. Also, I think those sections are written in quite an accessible way.

In the end, the conclusions reached are a lot more convincing if you understand at least the basics of the science behind them. For instance, the degree to which one can be confident that the record of climate history in ice cores and tiny shells depends on the degree to which one appreciates the precision of the techniques used to study them.

Gail February 5, 2010 at 7:59 am

Milan, thank you for this unique gesture! I plan to read the book, and with any luck will find someone else who is interested in reading it as well. I have to say though I keep several books on climate change conspicuously piled on my kitchen table, including From Hell to High Water, and With Speed and Violence, and none of the friends or family passing through has ventured to take a peak at any of them!

I have had very little success at engaging people who are determined to ignore the effects of climate change. I printed up a flier with a pretty picture of singed leaves, and an explanation of how greenhouse gases are damaging our trees. I’ve left it in local stores, and put a copy into each of the Christmas cards I sent this year. Not ONE person has contacted me as a result – not asked me a question, or even mentioned its existence.

I have written to every local environmental and conservation group, my township committee members (including the parks department, the town shade tree commission, etc), the local Agriculture association – and not even ONE person has responded.

I suppose eventually people will be forced to pay attention but by then it will be too late. Those of us who, for whatever reason, are blindingly aware of the dangers we flirt with so recklessly, will have to just continue trying to share this knowledge.

I am often so frustrated that there is not one unified movement to demand a broad and urgent switch to clean energy. We haven’t the cohesion and the money of corporate interests, and we are really failing our children in our collective passivity.

Thanks for your blog.


R.K. February 5, 2010 at 2:49 pm

This is just the kind of arrangement an economist would design.

Carrot: free book
Stick: if you don’t read it, you pay

The only addition would be a bonus for getting other people to read it.

Milan February 5, 2010 at 2:54 pm

Copy #2 is being dispatched to my friend Sarah in Vancouver.

Are people being put off from accepting this offer, on account of the ‘pay me back if you don’t read it’ provision?

I kind of like the idea of a bonus for people who pass along the book to someone else who then reads it, but I think I will keep the offer as it is for now.

Gail February 5, 2010 at 8:58 pm

No, I think it’s based on a reluctance to accept your financial sacrifice to provide a book that most likely, your readers can afford to buy for themselves.

Maybe if you offer to send the book only if the recipient promises to pass it along, then they would feel that they were engaged in an exchange. I’ve read that people have a psychological need for that, otherwise they feel indebted and uncomfortable. Plus, more people would read the book.

Milan February 5, 2010 at 9:06 pm

For someone thoughtful to read the book is well worth the cost of it to me, at least up to the prescribed limit above.

Gail February 5, 2010 at 9:38 pm

Of course but that is not the point. If you really want to encourage people to read the book, offering to give it to them for free is, as you are noticing, not an effective strategy. For one thing, people don’t value something they get for free as much as something they have to “pay” for, in one way or another.

For instance, lobster was once a despised food that indentured servants were forced to eat. Then it became more scarce and expensive, and thus, a luxury item.

And there are countless anthropological studies of gift-giving. Across cultures, the giver is perceived as superior to the recipient, who as regarded as being under obligation to the giver.

I’m just saying, since you asked, that you might get a better response if there was a perceived exchange, a quid pro quo, that would make acceptance of your gift of the book more palatable.

It’s a very interesting question to me, because just this morning I was thinking about blogging, and published books. I was listening to the author of a new book that is getting a lot of attention, about the evolution of approaches to childbirth, I forget the name. But I was thinking, people still pay for books even though they can get most any information on the internet for free. Why? Maybe because the mere fact that they have to pay for it implies greater value.

So then I was thinking, maybe if I turned my blog into a printed book, “A Year of Trees Dying” or something, more people would read it? Except, how to include all those instant links to long documents of scientific research, and videos?

Milan February 5, 2010 at 9:40 pm

I’m just saying, since you asked, that you might get a better response if there was a perceived exchange, a quid pro quo, that would make acceptance of your gift of the book more palatable.

That’s where the whole ‘read it or pay me back’ thing was supposed to come in.

It is easy to say that you will get it from the library. Harder to actually get it, and harder still to read the 275 pages.

I thought that perhaps the offer and the obligation would combine to get it read a few times. Paying people about $1 to read ten pages seems like a good deal for me, provided they are people who will care and the pages are important.

Gail February 5, 2010 at 9:51 pm

mmm, it’s probably just the phrasing, not the intended content – but it comes across as more a threat than an exchange. Do this or else.

I apologize if you think I’m criticizing. I don’t mean that at all. I admire your offer, and I’m trying to think of why more folks haven’t taken it up.

Milan February 5, 2010 at 9:52 pm

Comment and criticism are both welcome. This site is a series of experiments.

Learning how to get people to read good books is well worth spending some dough, and well worth making some mistakes and getting called on them.

R.K. February 5, 2010 at 10:00 pm

Learning how to get people to read good books is well worth spending some dough

Become a professor, and you can make dough doing that.

Gail February 5, 2010 at 10:00 pm

NO mistakes! Just a learning experience!

alena February 7, 2010 at 1:19 pm

I would definitely read it. Please order it for me and I will reimburse you for the copy later.

Milan February 7, 2010 at 1:21 pm

Copy #3 is going to my friend Jane.

I just ordered a fourth copy to be sent to Alena. It should ship tomorrow and arrive 3-5 days later.

Milan February 7, 2010 at 1:25 pm

Oh, and Copy #1 has been delivered.

Milan February 10, 2010 at 5:41 pm

Copy #4 has been delivered.

Copy # 5 is going to my friend Justin.

XUP February 11, 2010 at 11:42 am

I hope you’re not shipping all these books by aeroplane?? Other than that it’s a great way to get people interested and reading. I’ll get a copy from the library when they appear.

Milan February 11, 2010 at 11:58 am

Cutting emissions to the bone isn’t the key thing right now. Instead, we need to be building a movement. Resistance is more important than abstinence, and if this book inspires people it will be well worth the emissions associated with printing and shipping.

Tristan February 12, 2010 at 12:23 pm

Toad Lane in Toronto would like a copy. Especially since the book seems to be sold out at local bookshops.

Milan February 12, 2010 at 1:12 pm

I have sent you Copy #6. They all seem to be arriving in record time. Copy #5 arrived today.

Milan February 16, 2010 at 1:20 pm

Copy #7 has been send to Richard Pauli.

zoom April 27, 2010 at 2:17 pm

For the record, I just got my copy from the library. It took two and a half months to rise from #15 position to #1. Hopefully I can finish reading it before the three weeks are up!

Milan April 27, 2010 at 2:25 pm

I am glad to hear you got your hands on a copy.

So far, my mother is the only other person who has written a detailed response.

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