STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Some people may be using high-tech surveillance technology to get their hands on a book. Adults cannot wait to read "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest," the final installment in Stieg Larsson's trilogy. But in this country, they're not lining up at the local bookstore; they are ordering their copies from overseas, where the book has already been released. NPR's Lynn Neary reports.
LYNN NEARY: Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy is a genuine publishing phenomenon. More than 3 and a half million copies of the first two books are in print in the U.S. alone. A film version of the first book, "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," has just been released. And the U.S. release of the third book is scheduled for the end of May.
Paul Bogaards, executive director of publicity for Knopf, the U.S. publisher, says no one knew how big the books would be.
Mr. PAUL BOGAARDS (Executive Director of Publicity, Knopf): We thought that Stieg Larsson, as an author, should be a best-selling author, but did we see the juggernaut on the horizon, the international juggernaut that Stieg Larsson has become? No.
NEARY: Knopf obtained the rights to Stieg Larsson's books after his death. He was an unknown in the U.S., so the publishing company's first priority was to introduce him to the public. At that point, they didn't think about the need for a simultaneous release of the books in different countries. They just wanted time to build interest with the release of each book. They had no idea that avid fans, like John Gomperts, would be so eager to get their hands on "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest."
Mr. JOHN GOMPERTS: Well, once you know you can have it, once you know it exists in English and you can buy it, it would be crazy not to.
NEARY: Gomperts didn't waste any time after a friend told him the book would be available in Britain long before the U.S. release in May.
Mr. GOMPERTS: She said, well, you know, you can just go on Amazon.uk and buy it. In fact, she said, I've already been there; it's coming out on October 8th. As it turned out, it was released on October 1st. I had it, and had read it, by October 8th.
NEARY: Celeste Warrington, of Cincinnati, says there's one really good reason why she wanted to get the book sooner rather than later.
Ms. CELESTE WARRINGTON: Impatience.
NEARY: Warrington had already read the first book in English when she discovered her husband had bought the second book during a trip to France. It was part of a pile of books he'd gotten to help him with his French, and Warrington instantly realized he didn't know what a treasure he had.
Ms. WARRINGTON: So, I called him, I said, can I take this book? You read the first one in English; I would like to read this one. And I did and loved it. He read the first and second and loved it, so that we couldn't wait. We jumped the gun and went on Amazon.fr and ordered the third one. And we ordered two copies 'cause we realized we weren't going to be able to share.
NEARY: And you ordered it in French?
Ms. WARRINGTON: Yeah, it was terrific. It was great. It was really fun.
NEARY: All this online book-buying did not escape the attention of book sellers like David Thompson, of Murder By the Book Mystery Bookstore in Houston. Thompson says the store wanted to honor the U.S. release date, but it kept getting harder and harder.
Mr. DAVID THOMPSON (Murder By the Book Bookstore): We had gotten several very loyal customers who just absolutely needed the third book because the second one ends with such a cliffhanger you really, really want to read that third one right away. And so we felt that it was really important to serve our customers and import these books that there was a desperate demand for.
NEARY: Eventually, Knopf found out that Thompson's store and others were importing copies of "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" and selling them to their customers. Knopf asked the booksellers to stop the practice - which they did because, says Paul Bogaards...
Mr. BOGAARDS: Because it's against the law. It's a violation of copyright law.
NEARY: Online booksellers are also supposed to honor the U.S. release date, which Bogaards says consumers may not know.
Mr. BOGAARDS: What I would say to readers is, I would encourage them to shop at their local bookseller here in the United States, or their local online bookseller here in the United States, where no laws are being broken and you are supporting the continuing discovery of world literature.
NEARY: As for the future, there's lots of talk of a possible fourth book. And if that happens, Bogaards says:
Mr. BOGAARDS: Let me say this: If there is a fourth book - and we know that there are 200 pages of a fourth book somewhere - I can assure you that we will consider, if we ever have the opportunity to publish it, we will consider publishing it simultaneously with our U.K. partner.
NEARY: Fans like John Gomperts would love another book, but having already read the third one, Gomperts says the last 100 pages of it were so satisfying, he doesn't mind stopping right there.
Lynn Neary, NPR News, Washington.
(Soundbite of music)
INSKEEP: This is NPR News.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.