Publishers Speedily Churn Out Newsworthy Books

Publishers are already rushing to get books about the death of Osama bin Laden into the hands of interested readers. Hastily published books are a common byproduct of big news events, such as the bin Laden story or the royal wedding.

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Rushing books to press is a common practice after big news events. And the publishing industry is wasting no time in getting out books about Osama bin Laden and the operation that led to his death. Contracts are being signed, deadlines are being pushed up, and a brand-new e-book on the subject will be available to the public by Monday.

NPR's Lynn Neary reports on the publishing world's quick strike operations.

LYNN NEARY: When Mark Reznick learned about the death of Osama bin Laden, he knew the world had changed. He also knew he very likely had a best seller on his hands. That's because Reznick is the editor of "SEAL Team Six," a book about the inner workings of an elite unit of the Navy SEALs.

Mr. MARK REZNICK (Author, "SEAL Team Six"): There were two levels to this. The first was when I woke up Monday morning and grabbed the newspaper off my driveway and saw he'd been killed, and read that it was most likely SEALS. But it was not until an hour or two later, when we started seeing that it was, in fact, SEAL Team Six specifically, that I realized that we had, actually, a very big opportunity.

NEARY: Though obviously written before this week's events, Reznick says the book may give readers a better understanding of the role SEAL Team Six played in the attack on bin Laden's compound.

Mr. REZNICK: They'll understand what it means to be a member of SEAL Team Six; what these men are, what makes a Navy SEAL, what goes into becoming a Navy SEAL. And I think through that, they'll understand exactly who these men are - or at least close as they can - to who the men are that can pull off such an incredible mission such as this.

NEARY: The book was scheduled for release on May 24th, but the publisher moved it up to next Tuesday. That's the day after Random House releases its first instant e-book, an essay collection called "Beyond Bin Laden." The editor, Jon Meacham, says the president was still speaking about the attack when he set the book in motion.

Mr. JON MEACHAM (Editor, "Beyond Bin Laden"): This book was born around 11:30 p.m. Eastern Time, Sunday night.

NEARY: Meacham, a former editor of "Newsweek," only recently left journalism for publishing. So it's not surprising that his instinct was to take advantage of the speed afforded by digital publishing. Within 36 hours, he had essays written by a prestigious group of contributors including former Secretary of State James Baker.

Mr. MEACHAM: The people we have are all passionately engaged in the story, and have been for more than a decade - whether it's, obviously, Secretary Baker; or Karen Hughes, who was there at the beginning; Richard Haass, who was in the government when the attacks happened and is now at the council. Everyone was poised and, I think, eager to weigh in because it's such an enormous event.

NEARY: Meacham says the essays focus on the future, assessing the tactics, policy and military options in Afghanistan and Pakistan now that bin Laden is dead.

Mr. MEACHAM: The book tries to look beyond what everyone is doing right now, which is desperately trying to find out exactly what happened - a noble, important endeavor; I spent years doing it. But there's no way for book publishers to compete with daily and now hourly, minute-to-minute journalists. That would be a fool's errand.

NEARY: A couple of well-known experts on bin Laden, Afghanistan and the war on terror also got contracts this week, to write traditional books. Those will take a little longer to get to the public. And no doubt negotiations are already under way for more books on the subject.

Lynn Neary, NPR News, Washington.

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