Five Questions for the Books Department

Our Diabetes Comfort Food Cookbook by Robyn Webb, the Diabetes Forecast food editor, proves that diabetes-friendly recipes can be amazing.

If you’ve visited ShopDiabetes.org, scanned Amazon.com, flipped through the pages of Diabetes Forecast or simply walked into an old-fashioned bookstore looking for information about diabetes, my hope is that you’ve discovered the American Diabetes Association’s (Association) great selection of books designed to help people with diabetes live healthier, better lives.

Cookbooks, weight-loss books, glucose-management guides, meal planners, books on the latest technologies—we try to cover it all. Good food is important and we work with a number of culinary experts to build recipes and meals that are healthy, but more importantly, delicious.  More importantly, we make sure that everything we publish is based on sound scientific evidence, scrupulously written and reviewed by experts and priced affordably.

I’ve worked on books at the Association for nearly a dozen years, and over that time, I’ve heard a lot of questions, requests and, yes, complaints. So in what I hope is an exciting glimpse into our little corner of the Association, I’d like to walk through the Top Five Book Questions that have come in through the years.

1. Why Do You Charge for Your Books?

We get this one the most. The answer is a relatively simple one: Because we don’t use Association donor and fundraising dollars to produce our books. We’re a self-sustaining department that relies on the revenue we generate to keep operating and making more books. We’d prefer donor and fundraising dollars go to advocacy, research, outreach and other activities instead of paper, shipping and author royalties.

We do try to keep our books affordable while ensuring that we cover our costs. And in those instances when we do get more than we spend, those dollars go directly back into the Association to support research grants, advocacy efforts and a number of other programs designed to help people with diabetes. In fact, you could consider an Association book purchase a small donation—one that comes with an exceptionally well-produced resource attached to it.

1-A. That’s Great, But Why Do You Charge for eBooks?

Another popular question, but the answer is, again, a simple one: Because paper and inventory costs are only a very small part of the expense of a printed book (usually about 10-15% of the total costs of). The remaining expenses go to author royalties, design, editing, discounts to booksellers and marketing, and most of these are expenses that go into the making of an eBook as well. Additionally, Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble and even the vendor who helps us sell eBooks through ShopDiabetes.org all take a percentage of every sale. At $9.99, an eBook is actually a bargain.

2. Why Don’t You Publish More/Anything on [INSERT TOPIC HERE]?

There are a variety of reasons we can’t publish books on certain topics. Usually, though, two main factors are at play—market size and science.

Market Size

We’d like to publish a full-length book on every topic that could potentially affect someone with diabetes. Unfortunately, we simply can’t. There are some topics that affect a large number of people, but are better suited for a magazine article or pamphlet and wouldn’t work well as a full-length book. Other topics have an audience that is just too small to support the production and distribution of a book.

Dr. David Sacks worked with us on Diabetes & Pregnancy to ensure expecting mothers with gestational, type 1 or type 2 diabetes have the information they need for a healthy pregnancy.

A well-done, professional title written by credentialed authors and delivered in a durable, attractive format costs thousands of dollars. If we start producing a lot of books that only sell 100 copies, we become a drain on Association resources, and that’s exactly what we don’t want to do.

While we can’t cover everything, we work hard to create books that cover most aspects of diabetes self-care. Fortunately, the Association provides a wide variety of content through other channels—Diabetes.org, educational handouts, Diabetes Forecast—that cover nearly every topic and subject matter that isn’t right for a book.

Science

When we get asked why we don’t have a book on the latest weight-loss craze or popular dietary trend (and we do, a lot), the answer is usually that the published research just isn’t there. Naturally, this is a very complicated issue. But I can say this: If it’s not backed by the rigorous research and credible scientific literature, and especially if it’s not consistent with our Diabetes Standards of Care, we’re not going to publish it.

3. Who Makes Your Books?

We do! This may seem like a strange question to some, but it’s one we get a lot. We’re lucky to have a group of dedicated, hardworking professionals who believe in the mission (like you, nearly all of us have diabetes in our families) and are willing to put in the extra hours and extra effort to do more with less. We’re also supported by a network of enthusiastic vendors (photographers, printers, distributors and more) who work closely with us to make the most of our grand ideas and small budgets.

And, of course, nothing could happen without the experts, health care professionals and culinary masterminds who author our books and work to improve the lives of affected by diabetes.

We worked with the "Julia Child of Asian cuisine," Corinne Trang, to create the one-of-a-kind Asian Flavors Diabetes Cookbook.

Hundreds of hours of time, a lot of effort, and years of experience go into every book we publish. But the result—a beautiful, tangible thing that can potentially improve someone’s life—makes it completely worthwhile. The results of all this dedication, work and expertise are the best books on diabetes available anywhere.

4. Where Can I Find Your Books?

Lots of places. Naturally, we want you to order directly from us (ShopDiabetes.org or 1-800-232-6733), because it means there are less middlemen involved and that extra revenue goes to fund other Association programs and activities.

But our main goal is to get books into the hands of those who need them and we work with a number of companies to help make this happen. Our books are available in most major bookstores; a growing number of smaller, independent bookstores; big box stores and chain pharmacies; online booksellers, such as Amazon.com (in both print and eBook format); and a number of libraries across the country.

5. What Are You Going to Do in the Future When Books Are Obsolete?

I’ve been getting versions of this particularly loaded question since I began working at the Association and the Internet was going to change everything. Fortunately, I don’t think books are going anywhere.

What will change is how we read them, access them and buy them. (And, for the record, I don’t think paper will disappear completely; printed books are durable, easy to operate, universally compatible and don’t need charging.) To ensure we’re delivering books how people want and need them, we’re making nearly all of our titles available as eBooks and exploring additional formats, such as apps and enhanced books, for the near future.

Whether it’s on a vellum scroll, in a bound book or glowing from a screen on your refrigerator, people will always be drawn to portable content, assembled by experts and designed to be easily read. And as long as people want and need books to help them manage their diabetes, we’ll be around to provide attractive, well-written titles with information crafted by prominent thinkers in the field and backed by the authority of the Association.

Have more questions or comments? Want to share your favorite Association title? Let me know in the comments!

Abe Ogden
Director, Book Publishing
American Diabetes Association

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2 Responses to Five Questions for the Books Department

  1. T. Baker says:

    My 11 yr old son was just recently diagnosed with Type 1, do you have any kid friendly cookbooks regarding mealtime?

    • Abe Ogden says:

      At this time, we do not, but stay tuned. We’re currently exploring a project focused on family cooking, with kid-friendly recipes, kitchen activities, and a lot of fun stuff designed to foster healthy eating skills across a lifetime. It’s still in the very early planning stages, but we would like to have something on this very soon.

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