Very fast getting book off the press Books: Publishers rush to put the Starr Report into your hands.

September 16, 1998|By Sarah Pekkanen | Sarah Pekkanen,SUN STAFF

Ken Starr's report has already cost taxpayers $40 million. Now your local bookstore wants to hit you up for just a little more. At least three publishing companies are hawking instant-book versions of the report -- bound in paperback and, thankfully, un-illustrated. And next month, it arrives on audio-tape. Commuters, beware.

You could, of course, get the 445-page document for free inside many newspapers or on the Internet (as almost 6 million people did last weekend). But publishers say customers want a more enduring reference guide to the Lewinsky affair. And judging by the scene yesterday morning at B. Dalton Booksellers at White Marsh, they're onto something.

No sooner had an Airborne Express delivery woman raced through the bookstore's door shouting "Rush to shelf!" than two customers -- a middle-aged woman and an older man -- sidled over to investigate the contents of the boxes. "The Starr report!" exclaimed the man. Both bought copies.

"We'll probably sell out today," said assistant manager Antoinette Harrison, adding that a total of 34 copies from two publishers had arrived in the store by late morning.

Sales are also strong at the 22 U.S. Government Bookstores nationwide, which are offering a $14, plain-brown paperback version of the report. An employee in the Washington, branch estimated that 900 copies have been snapped up since Saturday.

Before you bolt to the bookstore, here's a peek at the offerings and an explanation of how they hit the shelves so quickly:

Title: "The Starr Report: The Independent Counsel's Complete Report to Congress on the Investigation of President Clinton"

Publisher: Pocket Books, NYC

Price: $5.99

Available: Nationwide

In bookstores: Yesterday

Copies printed: 500,000

Style: Mass-market rack-sized book with red, white and blue jacket. Includes a five-page foreword by Phil Kuntz of the Wall Street Journal and the White House rebuttal.

How they did it: Pocket Books flew an employee to Washington to pick up the report and hand-deliver it to a typesetter in Chicago. The text traveled to a printer and bindery in Buffalo, N.Y., where extra presses ran through the weekend. Books were shipped overnight express to stores on Monday.

Why the publisher thinks it will sell: "Getting it off the Net is unwieldy, and the book format is more portable than a newspaper," said Liz Hartman, a spokeswoman for Pocket Books.

Title: "The Starr Report: The Findings of Independent Counsel Kenneth W. Starr on President Clinton and the Lewinsky Affair"

Publisher: PublicAffairs, NYC

Price: $10

Available: Nationwide

In bookstores: Yesterday and today

Copies printed: 300,000

Style: Includes 50 pages of analysis by Washington Post reporters and the White House rebuttal. The paperback's cover is white with red, black and gold lettering and borders. "It looks official but not forbidding," said Peter Osnos, PublicAffairs' publisher.

How they did it: Working out of the Post newsroom, Osnos and his crew downloaded the report off the Internet, then sent it to a shop in Virginia, where the pages were designed. On Saturday, the pages arrived at a printer's outside Scranton, Pa., and presses started rolling just 24 hours after the report's release. The first 125,000 copies arrived at a Scranton warehouse Monday at 3 a.m. They were rushed overnight to bookstores.

Why it will sell: "Think about it this way: With a piece of music, some people listen to it on the radio, some people listen on CDs, or cassettes, and some people buy sheet music," Osnos said. "What you've got here is something you can put in your pocket and on your shelves."

Title: "The Starr Report: The Official Report of the Independent Counsel's Investigation of the President"

Publisher: Prima Publishing, Rockland, Calif.

Price: $9.99

Available: Nationwide

In bookstores: Arrived Monday and Tuesday

Copies printed: 100,000-plus

Style: Blue-and-white cover; no introduction

How they did it: The minute the report came out, Prima pulled it off the Internet. "We laid out the entire book Friday afternoon, in house, over a couple of hours," said Steven Martin, publisher of Prima Forum. Next, the document was electronically transmitted to waiting East Coast presses, which rolled through the night. Shipping began Sunday night. "It was a logistical masterpiece," Martin boasted.

Why it will sell: Customers "probably want to consider this a keepsake," Martin said. "It's a historical document ... one that will probably profoundly affect the future of the country. Also, it's easier to read in book format."

Title: "The Starr Report: Substantial and Credible Information"

Publisher: Dove Audio, Beverly Hills, Calif.

Price: $19.95

Available: Nationwide

In bookstores: First week in October

Copies printed: For the first printing, over 20,000

Style: Cassette jacket is being designed. An introduction will be read by attorney Erwin Chemerinsky; the four-cassette book is expected to last six hours.

How they will do it: Two actors, David Ackroyd and Tracy Brooks Swope, will read Starr's text. "The layout is not dramatized audio -- it will be read straight through in transcript form," said Wendy Walker, Dove's publicity director. And Ackroyd won't play Starr to Brooks Swope's Monica Lewinsky -- the actors will take turns reading chunks of the report, she said.

Why it will sell: "In this day and age, everybody is in such a hurry [that] audiobooks have become so popular," Walker said. "Especially with transcripts as heavy as this one, it takes a lot of time to sit and read it page-by-page."

Pub Date: 9/16/98

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