The AnonPress FAQ
What is The Anonymous Press?
Is The Anonymous Press part of AA?
Are your books General Service Conference (GSC) approved?
What do the NY offices have to say about you?
Have you violated any copyrights on The Big Book?
Do you change The Fellowship’s literature?
Doesn't your activity violate the "_th Tradition"?
Why are you doing this - doesn't it take money away from GSO?
Is there a dispute between yourselves and AAWS?
Why is there a $10 minimum on orders?
Contact information.


What is The Anonymous Press?

The Anonymous Press is a service organization in AA much like an Intergroup or Central Office. Our primary purpose is to carry the message of AA by making our basic text available at cost and making it easier to understand where possible.

Our effort began out of a group’s desire to follow AA Tradition and to help other groups do the same. We are firm in our belief that the very well being of AA is dependent on conformity to AA Tradition. The 7th Tradition of Alcoholics Anonymous states plainly that we are to be supported by the voluntary contributions of the membership. It is just as plain that money gotten from the sale of anything (including books) is not a voluntary contribution, but a profit acquired through the sale of a product. Just as it would be wrong to sell coffee for a profit to support a group, it is wrong to sell our message for a profit to support any part of AA.

Though it has become a common practice and nearly all AA books are sold at a profit, the practice does go against Tradition and is dangerous (more on this below).


Is The Anonymous Press part of AA?

We consider The Anonymous Press to be a part of AA and we are committed to follow The Traditions in all that we do. We are organized much like an intergroup’s literature department.

We are organized as an IRS recognized 501c3 non-profit and our goal is to always sell our books at cost.

Some have been curious as to just how this got started, they want to know who we needed to get permission from.

AA is not organized from the top down like most organizations. A bunch of AA members wanting to carry the message are free to do it; however, when the possibility arises that an activity may affect AA as a whole, Tradition 4 (long form) asks that the General Service Board be contacted. We met with the Board’s representatives in 1992 and again in 1995 and were assured they had no objections to our work. (see "What do the NY offices have to say about you?" below)

This unorganized structure affords the freedom to AA’s members and groups that ensures they can do what needs to be done to carry the message. In fact, The Grapevine (and even GSO) started in a similar way. As Bill W. wrote in the original booklet on AA Tradition in 1947 (p.43):

"The A.A. Grapevine began in 1945 among several newspaper-minded members who thought we needed a monthly periodical. They were willing to contribute a little money and boundless effort to make it a success. At the beginning, this group of AA’s had no special authorization from anyone. They just took off their coats and did a job, a job so well done that at the end of a year they found their paper in national distribution. There was no sponsoring nor much promoting. Like the book, Alcoholics Anonymous, the General Office, and the Foundation, the Grapevine became part of A.A. life on its own effort and merit."

Are your books General Service Conference (GSC) approved?

While the basic text we present is identical to that which has been approved by The Conference, only books published by AAWS are considered for Conference approval. Our books can not be considered for approval given the current approval procedure. The books are, however, reviewed by AAWS prior to publication and modified in light of any objections or suggestions they may have.

We think it is important to remember that GSC approval is not required for an AA service office to sell a book or for a group to use a book. AA is structured with the groups having the final say on almost all matters, including what they will use for literature. There is a long history in AA of groups, areas, etc. using and publishing various types of literature without conference approval. Local newsletters, meeting schedules, area bulletins, locally produced pamphlets, non AAWS meditation books and the like have always had a place in AA.

We are reminded of the accounts of the early days in Ohio that tell of The Bible being a popular non-conference approved book often used at meetings.

Conference approval is intended as a way to help give new members and groups an idea of literature that has customarily been used in AA. It also provides a way for AA as a whole to explain what the AA program consists of.

The list of Conference approved books are intended as guidelines, not a list of everything which is "permitted" to be used. AA groups alone decide what literature they will use.


What do the NY offices have to say about you?

Fortunately, the past disputes we have had with AAWS and The Board of Trustees are over. We still do not agree on everything but today there is no controversy between us. The most recent comment they have had in regard to us comes from the chairman of The General Service Board writing in a report on the 1995 General Service Conference in the July issue of Box 4-5-9.

W.J. (Jim) Estelle, Jr., (nonalcoholic) chairperson wrote:

"1994 also saw the General Service Board, A.A.W.S. and the Grapevine Boards involved in efforts to improve communication and resolve differences with I.W.S., Inc. Early in 1995 the board asked Gary Glynn, Class A trustee, along with Ann. W., Grapevine executive editor, and George D., G.S.O.'s general manager, to meet with three people associated with I.W.S.; the meeting resulted in a better understanding. The spiritual foundation of our Three Legacies provided a positive thrust toward resolution beneficial to the total Fellowship. We will continue to stay in close communications with those involved and we continue to be optimistic, since we have infinitely more common ground than differences."


Have you violated any copyrights on The Big Book?

In The United States, there is no longer a copyright on the Big Book. AAWS is still claiming a copyright for all locations outside the US, so we have agreed not to sell books to international addresses until the claimed copyright is disproved.


Do you change The Fellowship’s literature?

No, our printing is limited to the text of Alcoholics Anonymous. We have been very careful to not change the text. We do in some places provide footnotes for some obscure references in the text, but in all cases any notes are limited strictly to fact. There are no opinions added and we have no agenda to promote any particular approach to, or interpretation of, the text.


Doesn’t your activity violate the "_th Tradition"?

Here is a summary of each of The Traditions as they pertain to us.


1. Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends on AA unity.
We publish these books solely to carry the message and ensure that AA Tradition can be followed. We have cooperated with other agencies in AA (The Board of Trustees, AAWS, etc.) at every turn. All of our books are sent to The GSO before publication to ensure there is no objection to their content. AA unity is essential for all of us and we believe in doing all we can to preserve it.


2. For our group purpose there is one ultimate authority - a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.

We try to remember in all that we do that the final decisions are up to our Higher Power.


3. The only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking.

Like all service offices in AA, The Anonymous Press is open to all AA members and anyone with a desire to stop drinking. If you want to lend a hand, please write to us.


4. Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or AA as a whole.

Though we remain a very small endeavor, we have always stayed in frequent contact with the NY offices on any matter that may affect AA as a whole. Though we think its is certainly unlikely we will affect AA as a whole, we are not taking any chances.


5. Each group has but one primary purpose - to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.

Carrying the message is what all of this is about. We do a lot of that.


6. An AA group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the AA name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.

The Anonymous Press does not use the AA name (apart from Alcoholics Anonymous being the name of the book). We are not an outside enterprise. We realize that there is an ongoing rumor about us being an outside enterprise taking money from AA, but that isn't the case. If anything, this is about taking some of the conflicts over money out of AA.


7. Every AA group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.

The long form of Tradition Seven also goes on to explain that we are not to attempt to maintain a large reserve fund. We do not take any contributions from outside of AA, and do not maintain a reserve fund. Contributions are usually of the volunteered time variety, we always pay non-members for their time. When we do get monetary contributions that money is set aside to fulfill the requests we sometimes get from the imprisoned and indigent for books they can’t yet buy on their own.


8. Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever nonprofessional, but our service centers may employ special workers.

Most of the printing work is done on a contract basis with several independent printing companies. We usually employ about two "special workers" to run the day to day operations that require full time duties like any other service office might. This includes things like the bookkeeping, order taking, packing, shipping, design, technical and janitorial work.


9. A.A., as such, ought never be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.

In many ways, we are proud of our lack of organization. So far we have managed to avoid many of the pitfalls that come with too much organization and it has done wonders to keep the cost of the books down. We are pretty much just a few AA folks trying to carry the message by printing books and we try to keep the whole thing as simple as possible.


10. Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the AA name ought never be drawn into public controversy.

The Anonymous Press has no opinion on anything outside of AA.


11. Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films.

Our intent is to carry the message, but not be promoters of AA. Whenever we put together something to let people know about our books we are careful to limit it to information about the books, we trust the message to speak for itself.

We very carefully maintain our anonymity at the public level. None of our members’ names are ever printed in anything we publish. Maintaining anonymity at the public level is one of the very few things AA asks of the individual member and we take this as an obligation.


12. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.

We do all we can to leave personalities in the background. Whenever possible we keep our names out of it. That is one reason we put together these questions and answers. It allows us to respond as a whole and we can leave our individual opinions and personalities out of it. The Anonymous Press has no spokespersons and we do not seek recognition.

Why are you doing this - doesn’t it take money away from GSO?

We are asked this question frequently and it is often a fairly emotional topic for all involved. Given that, we will go into it in detail.

According to our 7th Tradition AA is supposed to be supported by the voluntary contributions of the membership. It is clear to us that the sale of anything for a profit in order to support AA service goes against this Tradition. Profit from the sale of anything is by definition not a voluntary contribution, but profit from a sale.

Here is a quote from page S130 of the AA Service Manual from the 1990s that illustrates the problem and the dangers inherent in this.


How G.S.O. Is Supported

According to our Seventh Tradition every A.A. group ought to be fully self-supporting. That includes such pooled services as G.S.O.

All activities at G.S.O. are lumped into two categories for the purpose of reporting expenses: service and publishing expense. In the past, A.A. groups contributed enough to cover about two-thirds of the service expense. The remainder was covered by publishing income, which was in excess of that required for publishing expense.

So, in 1986, the General Service Board asked for a special effort to inform the Fellowship of the dangers inherent in this situation; particularly that a substantial fraction of the publishing income now comes from outside sources. The effort was begun to inform the groups about this growing problem. The challenge was to make G.S.O.'s service work self-supporting through contributions of the membership and to sell literature at cost to everyone.


We do not wish to cause any disunity or conflict with the agencies in AA that do support themselves with book profits, but we cannot support what we know is wrong and dangerous. That is why The Anonymous Press was created, to give alcoholics the chance to buy our basic text and stay within The Traditions. We also find it sad that AAWS gave up on it's stated goal of being self supporting and has even removed the portion of the service ma nual quoted above.

We do not think it is right for a group or person to be required to "contribute" to AA so that they can have a Big Book. The message should not be used to ensure "contributions" are made.

We wholeheartedly believe in supporting service offices like AAWS. If, for example, a group needed 100 little Big Books AAWS would charge them about $440. If that group instead chose to buy 100 Mini Editions from us it would cost them $240. We think it would be wonderful if they took the $200 in savings and sent it to AAWS as a voluntary contribution.

A central office or H&I commitee can buy 1000 books from us for $1,350 or buy 1000 pocket sized books from AAWS for $4,180. Before we began our work in 1992 buying 1000 Big Books cost at least $5,000.

Is there a dispute between yourselves and AAWS?

Given our differing "interpretations" of Tradition Seven, there has in the past been some disagreement between ourselves and AAWS. Fortunately, early in 1995, AAWS accepted our request to meet with them and talk about our differences.

Here is the text of an announcement sent to the Fellowship from AAWS after the meeting (please note that we were called IWS back in '95).


February 16, 1995

To: Conference Members, Alternate Delegates, Intergroup/Central

World Service Meeting Delegates and Overseas GSOs

Re: I.W.S.

Dear AA Friends,

Representatives of the General Service, Grapevine and AAWS Boards met with three members of the I.W.S. group on January 11. Everyone present at the meeting expressed themselves openly and while we did not see eye-to-eye on everything, the discussion was friendly and we feel that there was good faith on the part of all to resolve issues existing between the A.A. Boards and I.W.S. Communications continued following the meeting in a mutual effort to resolve differences and reach an understanding. As a result of our discussions during and after the meeting, we have reached an understanding that I.W.S:

  • Will not knowingly sell or send books to Canada, where the copyright on the book Alcoholics Anonymous is in force, and will state on future order forms and invoices that the books are not to be sold in Canada.
  • Will not reprint the Spanish translation of the book Alcoholics Anonymous, and will run-off existing inventory in the course of the next 12 months.
  • Will include in their future printings a disclaimer of affiliation with AAWS or GSO, or authorization or endorsement of the publication by AAWS or GSO.
  • Will use on the covers of their future books a title to the effect that the book is the I.W.S. "Mini," "Workbook," etc., Edition of the book Alcoholics Anonymous.
  • Will send AAWS a pre-production copy of their future publications to ensure that we have no objection from the standpoint of infringement of copyright, confusion as to the publisher of the publication, or implication of approval or endorsement.
  • Will ensure that their future printings will not include the Preamble or the Twelve Traditions.

In accord with our traditions and the historic policy of GSO, AAWS has had no opinion regarding I.W.S. publications except to the extent that AAWS believed there was copyright infringement, or that books were marketed or formatted in a manner that could lead to the impression that they were published by, or approved by, AAWS. With the understandings that have now been reached, AAWS has no present dispute with I.W.S. with respect to these issues.

Why is there a $10 minimum on orders?

We used to accept orders without a minimum, but found that on most of the small orders the costs were more than the order total. The costs involved in processing an order are pretty much the same regardless of its size. Having the $10 minimum on orders ensures that those costs will be met.


Contact Information:

The Anonymous Press
1658 Milwaukee Ave #100-2883
Chicago IL 60647

Fax: (509)779-4339