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Simon & Schuster moves swiftly to release "Truman Fires MacArthur" ebook

Throughout the showdown between President Obama and Gen. Stanley McChrystal, pundits raced to point out that Obama is no Truman and McChrystal is no Gen. Douglas MacArthur. True enough.

But the parallels were compelling enough to get the collective mind at Simon & Schuster clicking. The result is the release today of an excerpt from David McCullough’s Pulitzer Prize-winning biography “Truman.” Available as a $1.99 e-book called “Truman Fires MacArthur,” the electronic release signals an emerging trend in book publishing: the mining of portions of relevant works for quick e-book publication when the news warrants.

As Jonathan Karp, publisher of Simon & Schuster, acknowledged in an email: “When you’ve got a Pulitzer Prize winning author with a classic historical analogy to the biggest story of the day, you’d have to be asleep not to see the opportunity.”

Indeed, a no-brainer for publishers. The costs are low because the material already exists and no paper printing is involved. A publisher mostly has to shell out for labor and digital production. What’s more, the media provide a steady stream of free promotion in its reporting on the related news.

With “Truman Fires MacArthur,” Simon & Schuster is taking a page from the music industry. The publisher is using digital technology to sell a piece of a book much as record labels have learned to market songs over albums. But that taste of an author’s work could further inspire a reader, Karp said. “In some cases, the excerpts may compel readers to buy the entire book,” he said.

By Steven E. Levingston  |  June 25, 2010; 2:14 PM ET
 | Tags: obama and mcchrystal; truman and macarthur; digital books;  
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