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Risk Management

11:03 AM
Melanie Rodier
Melanie Rodier
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A Surprising Bestseller: The 576-Page Financial Crisis Inquiry Report

Perhaps readers were lured by the literary prose of the commission's chairman, Phil Angelides.

As the New York Times states, it may "lack the sex and intrigue of the Starr Report, and the bone-chilling narrative of the 9/11 Commission Report."

But the Financial Crisis Inquiry Report, which went on sale Thursday as a 576-page book, has rapidly climbed the online best-seller lists. Amazon-com ran out of copies by Sunday.

Perhaps readers were lured by the literary prose of the commission's chairman, Phil Angelides. As we noted last week, the report calls credit-rating agencies "cogs in the wheel of financial destruction." Paraphrasing Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar," it states, "The fault lies not in the stars, but in us."

Now if only the lawmakers who put the 848-page Dodd-Frank Act together had shown equal literary inspiration...

From the NY Times:

“What we wanted to see was whether a significant public document like this, in the digital age, would still find demand in a book,” said Peter Osnos, the founder and editor at large of PublicAffairs, the independent publisher that released an authorized version of the book. “And the answer is yes.”

No one expects it to match the demand for previous government reports, which have sold hundreds of thousands of copies and flooded bookstores with impatient customers.

PublicAffairs — which, as a publisher of the book version of the Starr Report in 1998, has experience with this kind of thing — initially printed a modest 25,000 copies in paperback. A tome laden with charts, diagrams and condensed testimony, it has competition from a free online version, available on the commission’s Web site, fcic.gov/report. The e-book is available for $8.45 on Amazon; the price of the paperback is $14.99.

Phil Angelides, the commission’s chairman, was so determined to build excitement that he hired the communications firm of Anita Dunn, President Obama’s former communications director, to orchestrate the arrival, irking some Republicans.

Producing the book required discretion and speed. The May 2009 law that created the commission directed it to complete work by Dec. 15, 2010. But in November, the Democratic majority in the 10-member commission voted to delay the report until January, partly to give PublicAffairs time to rush the book into print.

Commission members worked around the clock to complete it around Christmas, keeping it under wraps. PublicAffairs received the finished manuscript around Jan. 7, pushing it into production so that it could begin arriving in bookstores only 20 days later, a quick turnaround by any publishing standard.

PublicAffairs paid no advance for publishing rights but had to cover the cost of production. (The commission chipped in about $40,000 to help PublicAffairs expedite the shipping.) The commission had been offered a $250,000 advance from Little, Brown to publish the book, but the deal fell through when that publisher was unable to meet the panel’s tight production schedule.

At Kramerbooks in Washington, perhaps one of the most likely stores in the country to attract people interested in the report, 11 books were sold in the first 24 hours, said Jayna Richardson, assistant book buyer. “We’ve got it stacked up on the front table.”

Melanie Rodier has worked as a print and broadcast journalist for over 10 years, covering business and finance, general news, and film trade news. Prior to joining Wall Street & Technology in April 2007, Melanie lived in Paris, where she worked for the International Herald ... View Full Bio
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