Despite the widespread availability of digital copies of the Mueller report, the three publishers that have announced plans for print editions remain convinced that there will be robust demand for both their physical copies as well as e-books.
Melville House, which had originally planned to do a first printing of 50,000 copies of its mass market paperback edition, upped its run to 200,000, publisher Dennis Johnson said. He expects to begin shipping to stores on Monday, April 29. Over at Skyhorse, the company’s first printing of 200,000 was off press on April 22 and was beginning to reach some accounts by midweek, said Skyhorse v-p and executive director of sales and marketing Bill Wolfsthal. Even as that first print run was being shipped, Skyhorse ordered another 75,000-copy printing, after hearing from accounts that they may not have ordered enough copies. To cut down on shipping time, Wolfsthal said Skyhorse was shipping to as many retailers and wholesalers as possible directly from the printer, which he estimated will get books onto store shelves two to three days sooner than if they went through the warehouse. The Skyhorse edition, which carries an introduction by Alan Dershowitz, was typeset to make it easier to read than the PDF edition that is available from the Department of Justice, Wolfsthal noted.
Although it has not upped its print run since its original announcement, Scribner will have the most books on the market with a first printing of 350,000 copies. Scribner was the first of the traditional publishers to get its e-book out, releasing it April 19 (Skyhorse’s e-book was released earlier this week, and Melville’s will be out today), and, despite being on sale for only a handful of days, it was #10 the Apple Books store’s bestseller list for the week ended April 21. While it was sending files for the e-book, S&S also sent files to its printer, and copies of the print book, which has analysis from the editors of the Washington Post, began arriving at some accounts on Wednesday. Brian Belfiglio, v-p, director of publicity for Scribner, said accounts are free to start selling the book as soon as copies arrive. Similar to Melville House and Skyhorse, which saw strong preorder demand, Belfiglio said S&S anticipates robust sales for both the e-book and the paperback editions and added that Scribner is “ready to reprint quickly to meet ongoing demand.”
The publishers’ bullish stance comes even though digital copies, in most cases just PDF versions, are readily available. Scribd reported that by midweek Mueller report PDFs on Scribd had been viewed almost 3.8 million times. B&N is giving away a free download of the report to Nook customers, and there are myriad e-book editions for sale on Amazon.
Still, for the most part, booksellers expect demand to be strong for the print edition, though it is not a unanimous sentiment. Michael Jones, owner of River Oaks Bookstore in what is a Republican stronghold in Houston, ordered three copies of the Scribner edition. “I’m sure the demographics will make a difference across the country, but we don’t see any big demand in our little spot,” Owens said. Even in the blue states of Massachusetts and Maryland, strong sales are not a given. Liz Hopper Whitelam, owner of Whitelam Books in Reading, Mass., said no one at her store has asked about the report and she has not placed any orders. Debbie Rodean Scheller, owner of A Likely Story Bookstore in Skyesville, Md., also did not order any copies, noting that the store has never done well with “report”-type books. Both booksellers noted they would place special orders for any customer looking for a copy.
On the other end of the spectrum, Washington, D.C.’s Politics & Prose expects the report to be a huge bestseller. Mark LaFramboise, head buyer for the store, said he ordered 600 copies of the Scribner edition. LaFramboise ordered copies of the Skyhorse and Melville editions as well, but he noted that, given Politics & Prose is in Washington, he expects customers to gravitate toward the Scribner title, since it contains commentary from Post editors. In any case, the report is “going to be front and center in the store and occupy the space that Michelle Obama has been occupying for the last few months,” LaFramboise said. He noted that it is hard to compare the Mueller report to anything that has come before it. “The 9/11 report sold well, the Starr report did not, but this is somehow different,” he said. LaFramboise said the attention it’s getting in the media should create interest in the public to see the actual report. And then there is the Trump factor. “People are collecting artifacts of this presidency, and it will be remembered as a debacle. It is screaming to be memorialized in a hip, ironic fashion.”
James Fugate, co-owner of Eso Wan Books in Los Angeles, also believes the report will sell very well. “There is huge demand for this book, and I have at least 10 preorders for this,” he said. “We ordered 50 each of the Scribner edition and the Melville House. I won’t touch the Skyhorse edition with the Dershowitz introduction.” He agreed with LaFramboise that the public wants its own look at the report. “I heard from one customer the other night that they were ‘sick of listening to the talking heads’ and just wanted to read the report for themselves. I think once people see it stacked up in the store near the register, they will buy it.”
Christie Olson Day, manager of Gallery Bookshop in Mendocino, Calif., said that, after receiving lots of calls for the report early in the week, she was “backing up my initial orders.” Brandon Stout, marketing director, Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, Ariz., had mixed expectations. He ordered 100 copies of both the Scribner and Melville editions for the store’s Phoenix and Tempe outlets. “From what I’ve seen on social media, I wouldn’t say there is a clamoring for it. Those who are keenly interested are reading the free version online, and we are recommending that as well,” Stout said, but he still thinks the books will sell. “When it becomes better known that there are multiple versions with different commentary, that will drive some interest. There will be partisan elements to that.”