Read it, download it, copy it, distribute it, burn it, whatever you want - at least you can now get it FOR FREE! Before Hoffman died, he gave a copy of his book to co-conspirator Dr. Bill Hartel and instructed him to do with it what he wanted; with the rise of the internet, the book has now found its logical home.
"It's embarrassing you try to overthrow the government and you wind up on the Best Seller's List." - Abbie Hoffman
Abbie Hoffman couldn't get a anyone to publish Steal This Book - 30 publishers turned it down. When the book was released, bookstores wouldn't carry it. Newspapers, TV and radio all refused to run advertisements. But despite these set backs, Steal This Book found its way on to the Best Seller list in 1971. The book sold more than quarter of a million copies between April and November '71. So where are all those copies?
The Chicago Public Library doesn't have one. Although the New York Public Library has 9,993,000 books, it hasn't had a copy of Steal This Book for twenty years. The Library of Congress, the world's largest library with 20 million books, doesn't have one either. After he published Fuck the system and Woodstock Nation, Abbie was kept informed of every sort of rip off scam.
He saw that this collection of ways to beat the system could be made into a catalog for his Yippie movement "Sort of a tongue in cheek parody of the American 'How To' manuals that were so popular at the time," said Abbie. But Steal This Book is much more than just a manual of survival in the counter culture world - a "Hip Boy Scout Handbook" as the New York Times called it.
In between the chapters on "Free Food" and "First Aid for Streetfighters," Abbie's thoughts on freedom, liberty, responsibility, self reliance shine through. His idealism echoes the sentiments of Henry Thoreau and Thomas Paine. Abbie's former publisher, Random House, rejected the book, as did 30 other established publishers. Not to be so easily thwarted, he collected $15,000 from friends and set up Pirate Editions.
Book distributors refused to distribute the work, so Abbie arranged with Grove Press to distribute Steal This Book provided Abbie assume all the liability for the book. Abbie tried unsuccessfully to place advertisements for the book in the media (with the lone exception of the San Francisco Chronicle).
Although the book was on the New York Times Best Seller's list, they wouldn't carry his ads. On 7/18/71, Dotson Rader wrote a glowing review of Steal This Book in which he stated "Everyone in publishing and distribution and in the press who had aided and abetted the restriction of Abbie Hoffman's freedom to be heard ought to be deeply ashamed...
The irony is that those who refuse to publish or advertise or review or sell Hoffman's book in the name of legality are doing more damage to America freedom under the law than Abbie Hoffman could do with all his books."
According to Abbie's autobiography, Soon to be a Major Motion Picture, "The original manuscript of Steal This Book wound up in the Columbia University Library." However, according to Bernard Crystal, curator of rare books and manuscripts at Columbia University, not only don't they have the original manuscript, they don't even have a copy of the published edition.
The book sold for $1.95 when it first came out. By the end of '72, a copy of the book was selling for $10. Today a good copy of an early edition sell for between $75 and $100. I tried to find a copy at the St. Louis Public Library none of the twenty branches had one.
A computer search of Midwest libraries found a copy two states away in the Columbus Public Library in Columbus, Nebraska.