Friday, September 25, 2009

Should LEAP publish a book?

At the Netroots Nation convention in August, I was lucky enough to be given a new copy of Marijuana is Safer by Steve Fox, Paul Armentano and Mason Tvert.

Browsing through this book got me wondering: should LEAP publish its own book? What I have in mind is a collection of essays written by LEAP speakers. Perhaps one third of the book could contain essays already published, like Jack Cole's End Prohibition Now. The remaining two thirds could focus on new content.

On the "yes" side: it would help raise money, which is important because we are a non-profit organization. It would provide a new medium for spreading LEAP's message, particularly if we could get the book into libraries and bookstores around the world. Some people may perceive LEAP to be more credible and well rounded if we had our own book. It also would provide a chance for unpublished speakers, like myself, to put our ideas and experiences into print.

On the "no" side: it takes a lot of time and effort to publish a book. Also, as Peter Moskos explains, most books don't make a lot of money. Publishing a book might distract LEAP at a critical point in our growth. (Also: does anyone actually reads books anymore?)

There is no shortage of authors at LEAP. Norm Stamper wrote Breaking Rank: A Top Cop's Expose of the Dark Side of American Policing. Judge Jim Gray wrote Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed: A Judicial Indictment of the War on Drugs. Moskos published Cop in the Hood. Many other speakers have published articles and research papers (see, for example, Hon. Maria Lucia Karam's excellent essay Prohibition Causes Most of the Harms Associated to Drugs.

It seems as though many drug policy organizations are publishing books as a means of fostering awareness about drug prohibition. Members of SAFER, as mentioned earlier, recently published Marijuana is Safer. Transform is about to release the third book in its trilogy about drug policy, titled After the War on Drugs: Blueprint for a Regulated Market.

What do you think? Should LEAP publish a book?


  1. You've read my mind! This idea, among others, was going to be part of a long post of ideas at the forum on what I thought the new Development Director should see happen.

    There are many ways to do this. Including using a ghost writer to do some of the work.

    I've read up on self-publishing and while it's not an immediately huge cash flow, the returns per book sold are much better than trying to publish through the humongous book publishers. Also, if it does well, then if they take interest, you can get a better deal.

    Each speaker at a gig brings a bunch of books and sells them there, just like indie musicians sell their own CDs at a concert.

    Also, I'd like to see LEAP long-sleeved shirts now the fall has set in! :-) I have many other ideas, but I'll put them in the LEAP forums.

  2. It sounds like a fantastic idea to me. LEAP, in my mind, has greater credibility with the drug warriors themselves than any other organization. If you do write the book, I suggest you stick with what you intimately know: the effects the drug war has on law enforcement itself at all levels. Police militarization, perverse incentives, a drain on the resources available for fighting genuine crime. You can relate to the people who need to be reached.

    In the end, too, LEAP is more about recognition than income. Yes I realize the money is critical, and there are many worthy pursuits. But books tend to generate legitimate reviews and press coverage. It's one of the few ways the message can transcend the stoner jokes and smirking.

    Also yes people do read books! Safer made an indisputable case, and now I'm reading Ryan Grim's This is Your Country on Drugs. Fascinating stuff.

  3. And I know this sounds kind of obvious, but if there is a book, it's got to be good. There are lots of anti-drug-war books out there. None have changed the world. What would LEAP's book add to what is already out there?

    One idea would be to have an edited book with various 1st-hand accounts of the drug war's failure. One person, one chapter.

    Or, because that would be a lot of work for a lot of people, perhaps we could pitch this idea to somebody like Dan Baum, a friend of mine and the author of Smoke and Mirrors (anti-drug war). He's more recently published a very well received book weaving the tales of New Orleans people together. Perhaps he could do the same with LEAP.


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