Saturday :: Sep 4, 2004

Swifty, Ain't Rush Always Right?


by pessimist

Of course he is! Just ask any Dittohead! That blind faith is what makes this report so incredible and yet so believable at the same time:

Kerry-bashing book not being suppressed, retailers say
Stores Swiftly accused

It's a conspiracy! Barnes & Noble and Borders are intentionally keeping a book critical of John Kerry off the shelves - so say conspiracy theorists who fly with the right wing. The nation's No. 1 and 2 booksellers have been barraged with complaints about the unavailability of Unfit for Command, by John E. O'Neill and Jerome R. Corsi. The book, released Aug. 15 and authored by former Vietnam War swift boat veterans, flew off shelves during its first week on the market.

My son, Bookseller, confirms that this is what happened at the store he works at.

Its unavailability has been viewed by some as an intentional act to prevent the anti-Kerry book from being distributed during the run-up to the presidential election. The backlash against Barnes & Noble was so strong that the company issued a statement to defend itself. "The fact is Regnery has not been able to keep up with customer demand for this title," said Steve Riggio, chief executive officer of Barnes & Noble Inc. in the statement. "We've been put in the difficult position of having to defend ourselves over a title we can't seem to get enough copies of from the publisher."

The publisher, Regnery Publishing, said they didn't anticipate it being so popular and didn't print enough copies. Jeff Carneal, CEO of the conservative book publisher Regnery, said the book is in its 10th printing with more than 650,000 copies in print or on order. "Despite what some customers may believe, it isn't the stores' fault that supplies are scarce. I wish I could blame it on a vast left-wing conspiracy," said Carneal in a statement, "but I just can't. The book's record-setting demand just couldn't have been anticipated by the stores or by us."

One begins to question the sanity of the complainants if they are blaming the stores for a publisher's faux pas. But then, the wrong-wing regularly blather on about things they know nothing about.

Emily Swan, spokeswoman for Borders Group Inc., the Ann Arbor-based bookseller, said the company has similarly had problems stocking the book and has been flooded with complaints. "Everybody was having trouble getting stocked," she said. "As soon as it was on the shelves, it was flying right off. We did have customers upset, and there were rumors flying around that we refused to stock it - which is absolutely false." She said before the stores ran out of stock, it was the week's bestseller.

But the explanation has failed to convince some. Posters on conservative Internet newsgroups like www.freerepublic.com have urged boycotts against Barnes & Noble, claiming anti-Bush bias. "I have a Barnes & Noble around the corner from me, and I can guarantee you that all of the Bush-bashing books lining the shelves got put on the shelves most-ricky-tick," someone known as "Doc" H wrote in a post titled "Boycott Barnes & Noble."

Bookseller tells me that isn't the case. All books on display are due to orders from the top, and their preference is actually for those that the wrong-wingers want to see exclusively. But being merchants before they are political chauvinists, they put out what sells. Wrong-wing books haven't sold well all year up until Reagan's funeral, and in fact had been remaindered (priced very low for clearance) up until then. Biographies of Reagan were going for $1 until the funeral, then demand picked up - as did the price. But back to the controversy.


Some bristle over scarcity of book critical of Kerry

The book that triggered a firestorm of debate over Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry's service during the Vietnam War is missing in action. Some frustrated customers have accused store clerks of having a liberal bias for not stocking Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry.

"We've gotten thousands of complaints from both sides of the political spectrum," said Mary Ellen Keating, vice president of corporate communications for Barnes & Noble in New York City. "Some people have accused us of hiding it or intentionally not stocking it, while others are asking Barnes & Noble to remove it from our shelves," she said.

My son confirms this as well, He tells me about several incidents where people have come into the store, singly or in groups, demanding that the store not only put out the copies of Unfit To Command that they are 'hiding in the back' but that they also remove 'liberal' books from the shelves and put up more of 'the truth'.

But the truth is less conspiratorial: The book's publisher simply didn't print enough copies. Regnery Publishing Inc., a small company with headquarters in Washington, D.C., originally planned to print just 40,000 copies, a very small run in the publishing business. After news commentators began talking about the book, Regnery increased the press run to 85,000. That still wasn't enough.

Over the weekend, charges of liberal bias spread across conservative talk shows. Yesterday, Keating did radio interviews in an effort to assure the public her company has no political agenda.

At Warwick's bookstore in La Jolla, several customers stormed out after being told Unfit for Command wasn't available, said wholesale buyer Adrian Newell. "I call them hit and runs," Newell said. "They hurl some insult to the effect that you're one of those liberals and then walk out of the store. It's been ridiculously confrontational when it doesn't need to be."

This has also happened at my son's store. One man, quite large in stature, tried to use his imposing size to intimidate him into removing all the Michael Moore books from the shelves. My son does not have that authority, but that explanation wasn't good enough for this man - not even when a manager explained the official company policy about political books to him. He was verbally insulting and abusive to both as he stomped out.

Doug Dutton, owner of Dutton's Brentwood Bookstore in Los Angeles, said some people have had a tough time accepting his explanation for the shortage. They point to plentiful supplies of books critical of President Bush, such as those by filmmaker Michael Moore and New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd.

Dutton said he's never seen as many politically oriented books selling so well during a single election cycle. "The book has become an event beyond its politics," said Dutton, the Los Angeles bookstore owner. "I've never seen anything like this."

Regnery originally planned to release Unfit for Command on Sept. 1, but moved the date up two weeks in response to the media frenzy over the book. Although the book is now in its fifth printing, temporary shortages are still expected. Regnery spokeswoman Kelley Keeler said the company expected the book to draw significant interest but didn't anticipate the avalanche of demand. "We're working hard to make sure we get the books to our stores and customers as quickly as possible," Keeler said. "By next week, there will be over 500,000 copies of Unfit for Command either in print or on order."

Major bookstore chains have reordered, but the publisher has cut the orders in half because it can't meet the demand. Most of Barnes & Noble's 800 stores nationwide won't have copies of Unfit for Command until at least the weekend.

"I've never seen an instant book so badly handled," said Newell, the Warwick's buyer. "No one from the publisher sent out any kind of information. No one seemed to know the on-sale date."

And of course, the wrong-wing radio frothers have redirected their wrath at Regnery for their screw-up, and apologized to Barnes & Noble, and Borders, and all of the other bookstores they besmirched.

Right! Care to buy some beachfront Florida land? Got such a deal for you!


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