Reprinting Reagan

I’m switching gears to work on some long-term projects, which may mean fewer story links and deleted scenes. That said, I want to keep writing regularly, so the plan is to do more short, standalone posts. They might be a little dated, but I hope they’ll also be interesting. Expect lots of presidents, publishing history, and weird-slash-strangely familiar stuff from old media sources.

So, in that spirit: while researching Jack Cashill’s crackpot theories about the real author of Barack Obama’s books, I came across the following web ad:

It seems that, in honor of Reagan’s birth centennial, Simon & Schuster has decided to reissue An American Life, his presidential memoir, in hardcover. Immediately after his death, in 2004, the publisher also rushed out a fresh batch of 10,000 copies. But this is something new. First, there’s the targeted online ad campaign. (I saw this one here.) Then there’s the brand new online book trailer. “Thousands of books have been written about Ronald Reagan’s presidency,” the trailer opens. “Only one in his own words.”

Most interesting of all, though, is Simon & Schuster’s release of a new “enhanced ebook” that combines Reagan’s text with contemporary videos. It’s a smart and relatively easy move since Simon & Schuster is now owned by the CBS Corporation, which of course owns all the news footage one would ever need. But political books often end up in these sorts of multimedia experiments. Rick Perlstein’s Nixonland was Simon & Schuster’s first “enhanced ebook,” with 27 videos interpolated into the almost 900 pages of text. Sarah Palin and Ted Kennedy’s plain old ebooks became important data points in the publishing industry’s attempts to delay ebooks in order to goose hardcover sales. And way back in 1990, for its original release, Reagan’s An American Life became the first presidential memoir audio book.

In a forthcoming academic article, I’ve got a lot more to say about Reagan’s career as an author, which is much more interesting — and much more rewarding — than you might initially think. I’ll post a .pdf of it when the journal issue comes out. Let’s hope that happens in 2011, so we can keep riding the birth centennial wave.

About Craig Fehrman

Craig Fehrman is a Ph.D. student in Yale’s English department and a freelance writer. He's working on a book about presidents and their books [more] . . .
This entry was posted in Books, Dissertation ephemera, Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

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