80,000 Hours runs a programme where subscribers to our newsletter can order a free, paperback copy of a book to be sent to them in the mail. Readers choose between getting a copy of our career guide, Toby Ord’s The Precipice, and Will MacAskill’s Doing Good Better.
This giveaway has been open to all newsletter subscribers since early 2022. The number of orders we get depends on the number of new subscribers that day, but in general, we get around 150 orders a day.
Over the past week, however, we received an overwhelming number of orders. The offer of the free book appears to have been promoted by some very popular posts on Instagram, which generated an unprecedented amount of interest for us.
While we’re really grateful that these people were interested in what we have to offer, we couldn’t handle the massive uptick in demand. We’re a nonprofit funded by donations, and everything we provide is free. We had budgeted to run the book giveaway projecting the demand would be in line with what it’s been for the past two years. Instead, we had more than 20,000 orders in just a few days — which we anticipated would run through around six months of the book giveaway’s budget.
We’ve now paused taking new orders, and we’re unsure when we’ll be able to re-open them.
Also, because of this large spike in demand, we had to tell many people who subscribed to our newsletter hoping to get a physical book that we’re not able to complete their order.
We deeply regret this mistake. We should have had a better process in place to pause the book giveaway much sooner, so that no orders were placed that we couldn’t fulfil, and so no one signed up to the newsletter thinking they would get a physical copy of a book when they wouldn’t.
Our readers’ trust in our services is extremely important to us, and we’re very sorry to let down the people who won’t get the books they signed up for.
We understand that this might make some readers trust us less. All we can say is that we commit to doing better in the future. We’re reviewing our book giveaway processes so that going forward, we will be able to consistently fulfil all orders as expected.
If you’re reading this and you were one of the users affected:
- Please accept our sincerest apologies for not being able to deliver on our promise to you.
- You can still get access to the 80,000 Hours career guide in these ways:
We’d also like to address any concerns readers may have concerning the processing of user data that we obtained during this period:
If you’d like to unsubscribe from our newsletter, because of this or any other reason, you can do so at any time by clicking the ‘unsubscribe’ link in the footer of any email from us. If you unsubscribe, we won’t email you again.
We will never sell any user data, for any reason.
We’ve asked Impact Books to delete all the personal data they had gathered from any user whose order we did not fulfil, and they will do so. So you can be confident that we will not benefit in any way from your provision of this data.
We hope this clears up some potential concerns in this area.
We apologise once again for not sending out all the requested books, and we’re really sorry that we let people down.
We think our book giveaway is a valuable service, so we’re motivated to get it restarted in a sustainable way — and we will strive to make sure we avoid a mistake like this in the future. We also hope that some of those who are disappointed to not receive a paperback book can make use of other versions of our advice, which are (and will remain) available for free online.
Update — Book giveaway re-opened on January 26, 2024:
We have re-opened our book giveaway for free paperback orders! If you have already signed up to our newsletter, you can order a paperback book by emailing [email protected]. Otherwise, you can get your book by subscribing to our newsletter as normal.
We greatly appreciate the patience of our new subscribers while we prepared to re-open the giveaway.
While we may have to close orders if we get overwhelmed again in the future, we have made several changes to improve the process of the book giveaway to address this problem.
- We improved the system that alerts us to unexpectedly high volumes of paperback book orders so that more of us are aware sooner.
- We developed clearer internal recommendations and procedures for when and how to pause the giveaway.
These changes will help us respond more quickly to these situations in the future, which we hope will limit the number of orders placed that we cannot fulfil.