Obama win could be Scottish publisher’s windfall

By Venkata Vemuri, IANS,

London : A Scottish publisher is waiting to get rich quick, thanks to Barack Obama winning the US presidential election.

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Jamie Byng, managing director of Canongate Publishing of Edingburgh, bought two books authored by Obama and now expects them to sell in millions.

Canongate originally printed 300,000 copies of “The Audacity of Hope” and “Dreams From My Father” in Britain, and has now ordered another 120,000 copies after Obama’s win. The print order is expected to go up to half a million by the end of the year.

“We are absolutely delighted that Barack won, but it doesn’t really matter how well they sell,” Byng told The Telegraph. “We acquired the books because they are rich, funny, complex and wise. ‘Dreams From My Father’, in particular, is a classic that has a very long life.”

The two books together have now sold more than three million copies in the US before the owners changed and are set to be translated into dozens of languages.

Obama published his personal memoir, “Dreams From My Father”, at the age of 33. But despite warm reviews, it subsequently went out of print, the newspaper has said. A decade later, he released “The Audacity of Hope”.

Byng bought the two books after an Australian publishing partner told him about Obama’s “Audacity of Hope” speech at the Democratic Convention in 2004. The deal was signed days after Obama declared his presidential candidacy.

The speech, delivered on July 27, 2004, catapulted Obama to sudden fame, with many analysts predicting that he might be well-positioned to enter a future presidential race. In 2006, Obama released the 20-minute speech in a book form. It was third on the non-fiction bestsellers list of The New York Times in 2006. Much of Obama’s presidential campaign speeches are based on this book.

Canongate has also released an audiotape of Obama’s reading of his first book, “Dreams From My Father”, which won a Grammy Award in 2006.

British booksellers say Obama’s books may now become the world’s bestsellers, eclipsing even Nelson Mandela’s autobiography in sale figures.

John Howells of the bookshop chain Waterstones said: “If books sales were votes, Barack Obama would have been in the White House a long time by now. He has completely outclassed the political biographies written about John McCain and Sarah Palin. We are getting more stock out to the shops now, as sales are going to go through the roof.”