A Vegetarian Sourcebook: The Nutrition, Ecology, and Ethics of a Natural Foods Diet is now 28 years old. It is the book for which I am best known and has sold thousands of copies. And now, I’m giving away my remaining copies! I’ll even autograph it for you. (UPDATE March 11, 2013: the book is now totally out of print from Vegetarian Press. No more copies are available, not even for money! Sorry.)
The only thing I’d really need is postage to cover it. Sending a single book via “media mail” is about $3, and for a box of books (32 books) that’s $15, to any U. S. address. (See my web page for A Vegetarian Sourcebook for details.) Several people have ordered boxes of books which they can then distribute for their own propaganda purposes to libraries or individuals. I’ve also started a practice of giving away Sourcebooks at local health or environmental festivals when I’m staffing a table for the Vegetarian Society. But hurry, supplies are limited, and I will not be putting out another edition (see below). This is it.
A Vegetarian Sourcebook was first published in 1983 by Putnam’s. The first printing sold out, but apparently not fast enough to convince Putnam’s to put it out in paperback, so I acquired the publishing rights to the book. I made revisions to the book and put out a second and a third printing (in 1987 and 1989), which also sold out, so Putnam’s clearly missed an opportunity. The final printing was in 1993, but by that time interest in the book was waning, and sales fell off to the point where I was left with about half of the books from the last printing still in my basement. (Too bad we didn’t have “print on demand” in those days.) I’m tired of them just sitting around so now I’m unloading these books at an incredible low price — absolutely free!
This book was (and amazingly, still is) innovative in two key respects.
1. It was the first book to advocate a “balanced hand” approach to vegetarianism and veganism. Most previous books (and many still today) just made their case based on one overriding reason. Eating Animals talks about ethical and animal rights issues; The China Study focuses on health. To really convince people in large numbers and keep them convinced, I wanted to show that multiple concerns all intersect, rather than hammer away at a single “invincible” point.
2. It still is one of the few books to discuss the environmental reasons for vegetarianism and veganism in any depth. John Robbins, in Diet For a New America, had a small section on the environment, which he expanded to three chapters in The Food Revolution. More recently, Comfortably Unaware by Richard Oppenlander has explored environmental reasons for veganism. But aside from these, this whole area — which should be the cornerstone of vegan advocacy — has remained unexplored.
The main problem with the book is that much of the information is dated. Some of the charts show projections for the year 2000. Anything that has occurred in the last decade or two won’t be found, and topics such as mad cow disease, omega-3 fatty acids, and the “ecological footprint” — all of which became prominent since the last printing in 1993 — are not mentioned at all. I’d also put more of an emphasis on veganism. But the statements which are made, with possibly a few isolated exceptions, are all still true and the data is still valid. Factory farms, protein nutrition, and the ethics of dealing with animals haven’t changed that much in the last few decades — or in some cases, in the last 10,000 years.
I continue to believe that this is an important book. At one point about eight years ago, I contemplated revising the book yet again, and one publisher even expressed interest in this project. In the coming days, I will blog on changes I would make to this book if I were revising it today, and also why I’m not interested in revising it yet again.
The basic reason I’m not attempting a “fifth printing” is that to do a really good job on the primary idea of the book — to address important issues surrounding a vegetarian diet — I would have to totally change the scope of the book. I could, it is true, do an acceptable but perfunctory job by just updating my charts and adding or deleting paragraphs or chapters here and there. But the reality is that some issues which A Vegetarian Sourcebook addressed are simply no longer controversial. Some issues are controversial, but to write about them I would just be duplicating work which others have addressed in a much more expert fashion. Other issues are controversial but for bad reasons: not because there is serious intellectual disagreement, but simply because people are ignoring the facts. I have never been in the business of just duplicating work which has been well done by others.
But there has been an explosion of environmental and economic issues surrounding vegetarianism and veganism which are largely unaddressed both inside and outside the vegan community. So the bottom line is, that actually I am revising A Vegetarian Sourcebook, but that when I complete it, it will be a totally different book — one which people will not recognize as a version of the book I first published in 1983. Stay tuned for details.