We hereby announce the release of a new, free, searchable on-line version of the book.
It’s strange how events sometimes unfold. Some 14 years ago I became the sole copyright holder for both the UK and US editions of The River, originally published in August 1999 by Little, Brown in the US and by Penguin in the UK, with two paperback editions published the following year. However, being something of a technophobe, I never personally bothered to obtain an electronic version of the entire text. What I had, of course, were files of the individual chapters, plus originals of the various photos, maps and charts.
Before long I began receiving a constant stream of email enquiries asking how to get hold of the book, which was now out-of-print. For many years I used to recommend that people access the excellent Bookfinder.com site, and buy a new or second-hand copy there. I would always recommend that people should try to buy the best and most user-friendly edition, this being the excellent trade paperback published by Back Bay Books (part of Little, Brown) in December 2000. This was not only strong and easy to handle (for a huge book), but also included the latest version of the text, featuring an enlarged and completely rewritten postscript, completed on October 8th, 2000, shortly after the two-day Royal Society discussion meeting on “Origins of HIV and the AIDS epidemic”.
Such copies sometimes used to retail for as little as $15, and though the money didn’t go to me, this seemed a pretty fair price for a 1,168-page book. But after a while I noticed that the on-line price, even for a second-hand version, was sometimes exceeding US$100. When I checked recently, the cheapest available second-hand copy cost nearly £34 ($45.85), while the cheapest new copy was priced at almost $200.
For a long time I thought that it would be good to bring out a new and updated version of The River in conjunction with my next book, on which (as some readers of this site will know) I have been working for several years now. In the meantime I believed that my copyright was sacrosanct, for a helpful on-line fact sheet entitled “Copyright and Fair Use” published by Stanford Libraries stated that “for works published after 1977, the copyright lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years.” Since I am not yet pushing up the daisies, this should have protected the book until somewhere near, or in, the next century, even if later on this fact sheet declared that in the US, “if such a work was published before December 31st, 2002, the copyright will last until December 31st, 2047.” Whichever way, it appeared that the copyright was protected for at least another 25 years.
However, in recent times I have received reports of people marketing pirated copies of The River on line without my permission. The latest report came from Margaret, a retired teacher from California, who told me that she had recently purchased a copy from a site that appeared to be based in Italy. (Others appear to be based in China and the U.S.) I wrote back pointing out that nobody apart from myself had any right to be marketing the book, and in reply I received an abject apology from Margaret, asking what she could do to put matters right. She offered to pay me a royalty cheque, which I declined. She also suggested other options, which included the offer of sending me a link to the book, so that I could market it on my own web-site.
But she also told me that she had been charged only about $4 for the link, which is only slightly more than the royalties I would have received from the sale of a single copy of the trade paperback. This struck me as being almost fair. OK, I still wasn’t at all happy about the piracy, but at least the person marketing the book appeared to have been motivated as much by a desire to make the text more widely available, as by a desire to grab as much profit as possible.
Margaret sent me the link, which I forwarded to a friend of mine who understands technical issues, and he discovered that it was a version of the Back Bay Books trade paperback, the 2000 edition that I have always liked the most. However, he also discovered that it had been created by Optical Recognition Technology, by scanning in each of the pages in turn (a lengthy task), and that as a result, it did not have an effective search facility. Moreover, it had been scanned from a used book, and was a somewhat dirty copy.
However, my friend also realised that since I owned the entire book (apart from the front and back covers, the artwork of which was technically the property of Little, Brown) it would not be that difficult to create a pristine on-line version. He worked on it for a couple of months, correcting typos from the original text and improving some of the photos, and he even created a new front and back cover. So what we have now is a PDF version which contains all the maps, charts, 175 pages of endnotes, the October 2000 version of the postscript, an excellent index (albeit one that was not fully updated for the new postscript), plus an opening two pages of outrageously flattering quotes from various reviewers.
And I came to a decision. I spent nine years researching and writing this book, and I want to put a stop to pirates stealing my work. I decided that the best way for me to do this would be to make the present version available for nothing through this web-site. I have had such fantastically positive reactions to The River from readers for the last 22 years that it seems only fair to finally make available a version that is easy to read and also searchable.
So thanks to Margaret from California, thanks to my friend who has created this latest version, thanks (in a weird sort of way) to the possibly Italian pirate, and happy reading to the rest of you. I hope that this brings this text, of which I am still enormously proud, to a wider readership.
As an aside, I still stand by all the major claims made in The River. However, since 2000 the research has moved on, and the most significant new discovery I have made is that in the late 1950s many hundreds of thousands of doses of Koprowski’s experimental oral polio vaccine were indeed produced locally in the Belgian Congo, in the cells and sera of common chimpanzees. (I had previously speculated this, but now I have evidence from several different testimonial and archival sources to prove it.) These doses were given exclusively to African vaccinees, and in this event lies, I believe, the source of the AIDS pandemic which has already tragically claimed roughly 50 million lives. This means that with the possible exception of the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918-1920, this dreadful pandemic represents the worst public health disaster in human history.
With the advice of the friend who has spent much of the last two months helping me compile this latest version, we are presenting this as a brand new 2021 edition, which is being released today (October 8, 2021), exactly 21 years after I completed the text of the revised postscript that features in the US paperback edition of 2000.
This 2021 edition contains an updated front and back cover (the latter featuring a drawing of myself by the well-known author, Nicholson Baker, based on a photo taken in 1997, just before The River was first published), improved versions of a couple of the photos, and corrections to various typos that appeared in the original text. However, apart from these small corrections, I have deliberately made no substantive changes to the content of the book published in 2000, so that it remains a true summary of my arguments as they stood in that year.
The link to the text of the book can be found here.
By all means forward sections or quotes from the book to others if you wish, but if you do so please cite it accurately, as follows:
“Edward Hooper, “The River. A Journey to the Source of HIV and AIDS”, [Somerset, UK: Edward Hooper, 2021; on-line version found at AIDSorigins.com].”
If you like what you read, please let us know through the AIDSorigins.com web-site. And if you feel like making some sort of payment (which several have offered in the past), then thankyou for that – but don’t send money to us. Instead, please make a donation to an appropriate charity. 75% of all the people with AIDS live (or once lived) in Africa. I lived in Uganda for three very happy years, and so the charity that I have helped in the past is The AIDS Support Organisation (TASO), based in Kampala. Their web-site is found at https://tasouganda.org/, and they have a donate link on the bottom of the page.
Alternatively, those who are concerned about the fate of chimpanzees in the DRC are encouraged to explore the excellent web-site of the Lwiro Primates Rehabilitation Center, located just north of Bukavu. One of the key workers there is Mama Zawadi, a Congolese woman who has been the victim of repeated sexual abuse and rape during the unrest that has persisted since the Congolese wars of the 1990s. A 30-minute documentary about her work with the chimps, Mama, directed by Pablo de la Chica, is available on YouTube. These days the eastern Congo remains a desperately insecure place, and adult chimps are often shot for their meat, although infant chimps are more often sold as pets. This is illegal, so baby chimps that are intercepted by the authorities are transferred to the Center at Lwiro. At present the Center houses 109 orphan chimps of the Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii subspecies, together with several other primates of various species. The web-site is found at <lwiroprimates.org>, and features a page for donations.
AIDS, as we all recognise, is a terrible and tragic epidemic, and so much about it still remains to be understood. None the less, today feels like a good day, and hopefully it also marks a step in the right direction. Read on, gentle reader, read on!
Ed Hooper October 8, 2021
Updated May 12, 2022.