Though it regularly licenses titles to the Danish publisher Aschehoug, U.K. publisher MQ Publications was surprised last month when Aschehoug pulled two MQP titles—The Che Handbookand The John F. Kennedy Handbook—from Danish bookstores after describing them as "tendentious" and "biased" and plans to pulp the 15,000 copies. The books are a part of MQP's handbook series, a popular line of compact hardcovers documenting the lives of iconic political and cultural figures.
In a phone interview from London, MQP publisher Zaro Weil said the books were abruptly pulled from stores apparently in response to a newspaper review that called the titles unbalanced, " before any public discussion. At no time were our authors, or indeed myself, given the opportunity to reply to criticisms in the Danish press." The author, Gareth Jenkins, noted that both books are widely licensed and "no other publisher has complained."
Weil explained that while "we could have sued," Aschehoug is owned by one of the largest publishers in Denmark. "We have to continue to work with them," she said. Other Danish publishers are interested in the books, and Weil expects to relicense both pulled titles.
In the U.S. office, Stacey Ashton, MQP's director of U.S. sales and marketing, said the handbooks typically sell 7,000 to 10,000 copies each in the U.S. and Canada. MQP has published five handbooks in the series after it packaged the first title, The Che Handbook, for St. Martin's Press, which continues to publish it. Since 2003 the publisher has released handbooks on Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe and Jackie Onassis. Earlier this year it published The JFK Handbook and The Fidel Castro Handbook in the U.S. In 2007 look for books on Muhammad Ali (Apr.); and Mao Zedong (fall).
MQP has a long relationship with Aschehoug, and Weil remains baffled by the publisher's actions. "You don't just withdraw a book from the market because you disagree with it," Weil said.