Getting Books for Members
Last updated January 18, 2023
Image: EA Norway
Using Books in Your Group
Giving or lending out books related to effective altruism can be a great way to encourage members to dig more deeply into EA. CEA can provide groups funding to purchase their own books to lend or give away to members. (You can apply for that here.)
Here are a few ways you can make use of books in your group:
Create a small library with a variety of EA-related physical books. These books can be loaned out to group members and returned to your members or others in the community. The process of asking for the book back and asking for the member’s impression of the book can be new ways to prompt a one-on-one conversation with a newer group member. CEA is able to provide funding for a small library.
Giving books as part of fellowships or discussion groups that have books, or large sections of books, as part of the curriculum. CEA is usually able to provide books for these structured extended events. You can be flexible about the return of loaned books - if group members want to read the book again or pass it on to friends, then it is totally okay to have them keep the book.
Giving away books outside of discussion events. CEA may be able to fund these books too, but this usually depends on which group of people you plan to give the books to.
Note: There are pdf copies of published books available. However, they usually break copyright rules, so CEA would prefer that any required books be purchased legally.
Applying for Funding for Books
Before applying for funding, you can try asking your local or university library if they'll buy the books for their e-book library. Brown EA did this successfully, so it is probably worth a try.
If this doesn't work, you can apply for CEA's Group Support Funding and buy physical books or e-books to give out using the funds. University groups can also apply for funding for group expenses like books from Open Philanthropy. Learn more about funding options for EA groups here.
If you are unsure about the number of books you’ll need, you can choose a number slightly higher than your best guess. If you're wondering about how freely your group should be in giving away EA books, you can read this document written by Brian Tan from CEA.
Note: Most groups with a Community Building Grant should use their CBG activity funding to buy books for their group members to use.
Image: EA Sydney
If you are running a book club or fellowship, you can ask participants to choose which format they'd prefer - e-book, physical book, or audiobook. Make sure it is very easy for the fellows to make their choice. Alternatively, you can choose to offer just one format, which may reduce logistical complications on your end.
EA groups often offer to provide some or all of the following book formats:
Physical copies. These work best if you can easily get the books to participants, the participants prefer physical books, and/or if you want to ask the participants to merely borrow the books over the course of the reading group. (However, if people want to hold on to the book to read it again or lend it to others, then feel free to let people keep the book).
If you're interested in physical copies:
You can order in bulk through a local bookstore or Amazon via CEA funding.
You can also ship through Amazon to ship to multiple locations (i.e. people's houses). Note that you'll need delivery details, a phone number of the recipient, and in some countries, a form of ID.
You can also allow the participants to buy the book themselves and get reimbursed if they prefer, but we recommend not making this the default option.
eBooks. eBooks are one of the cheaper options available, and can be least difficult to ship, but note that many participants may be less likely to read an eBook rather than a physical book or an audiobook.
A few ways you can gift ebooks for participants:
Kindle: This generally only works for people with Amazon US accounts.
eBooks.com: eBooks.com provides recipients with a voucher that they can redeem for an ePub, PDF, or access to the book in eBooks.com's own online reader. Some books aren’t available to buy from all countries due to publisher restrictions.
Google Play: You can buy an ebook ‘as a gift’ and email it to the participants. This only works if they are in the same country as you.
Audiobooks. While Audiobooks are more expensive than eBooks, we generally recommend buying them for participants who prefer this format.
If Audible doesn't work, you can gift a book on audiobooks.com. Gifts on audiobooks.com cover a monthly subscription that can be used on any book, so we generally recommend Audible when possible to avoid recipients redeeming the subscription on the wrong book.