Friday, July 22, 2011

Don't let Rough Guides let The Rough Guide to Evolution go out of print!

Is it possible to be very happy and very disappointed at the same time? That is about how I am feeling right now!!

Why am I happy?
Well, as I pointed out a few posts back, my university, the University of Birmingham, has taken the bold step of buying 6000 copies of my book The Rough Guide to Evolution and will be giving a copy to every new undergraduate student at the start of the next academic year in September.

This is a wonderful initiative--just imagine students, studying every subject we teach (and all their lecturers), all reading about evolution and its impact on every aspect of human thought at the very same time in the very same week!! Has there ever been anything like it?!! Other universities have had student books, but these have always been novels or memoirs. This is the first time, a whole cohort of students has been simultaneously reading one factual book and, Darwin and evolution fans, rejoice in the fact that it is on evolution!!

And to cap it all, we are having a series of events at the University allied to the launch of this "Great Read" initiative, including a talk from the award-winning Ken Miller, subject of so many positive tweets for his recent talk at the Evolution 2011 conference in Norman, Oklahoma and Darwin descendant and novelist Emma Darwin talking about the evolution of a novel!

So, why am I disappointed?
Because the University has now emptied the warehouse at Rough Guides of copies of the book and so this initiative will drive the book out of print, unless Rough Guides agree to a reprint. The minimum reprint is 3000 copies and I shouldn't imagine Rough Guides are paying more than a couple of quid per copy to be printed, so we are talking only a few thousand pounds of investment here.

So how have Rough Guides responded?
They have said that it is too risky for them to print another 3000 copies, because they cannot be certain of the demand! :-(

And why does it matter if the Rough Guide to Evolution is now out of print?
It seems very sad to me that the Rough Guide to Evolution will soon be out of print, when ideally you the public should be at least be getting a reprint and at best a new edition. All those five star reviews and for nothing!

And then there is the fact that the Great Read initiative will soon be communicated to hundreds of thousands of our alumni, many of whom are likely to want to buy their own copies of The Rough Guide to Evolution.

And some of the parents of students coming here are going to want their own copies.

And so will some of our university staff who are not teaching first years, and so don't get a copy of the Rough Guide to Evolution for free!

And what about all those who hear of the initiative via media reports?

And finally there is all you evolution fans out there in the blogosphere and twittersphere and on Facebook.

If you don't have one already, wouldn't you still like to be able to buy a copy for yourself?

And if you do have your own copy, wouldn't you recommend The Rough Guide to Evolution to friends and family?

And if you work for an organisation that defends evolution and science (e.g. the NCSE), wouldn't you want to continue to be able to recommend it--or even buy it for use in--your outreach programme?

An experiment
So, dear reader, why don't we do an experiment to see how much support and demand their is for a reprint, just from you people reading this, let alone all those alumni and parents?

If you are on twitter, please tweet or retweet "@roughguides please don't let #roughguidetoevolution go out of print; I want a copy; please reprint now!" with a link to this page. I will retweet the message each day for a week!

If you are not on twitter, please add a comment to this blog (and follow the link to get here if reading on Facebook) confirming that you don't want the Rough Guide to Evolution to go out of print and why.

If you feel particularly strongly about this, please e-mail Rough Guides editor Andrew Lockett ( politely expressing your dismay and providing evidence for the value of keeping The Rough Guide to Evolution in print.

So, let's see how it goes. If we get only a few dozen statements of support, then Rough Guides are right not to do a reprint. If we get hundreds, that will give them pause for thought, but probably won't be enough. But if we get thousands, then they will have to take notice.

And if all my twitter followers retweet the message that and then all their followers retweet it, we could have thousands of tweets in days!

The game's afoot--get tweeting!