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“Beyond Bin Laden” — A Hint at a New Way Forward for Long-form Journalism

Jon Meacham has just published a $1.99 e-book (an “instabook,” as he calls it) entitled, “Beyond Bin Laden: America and the Future of Terror.” Assembled in about a week, the book hints at a new way forward for long-form journalism — an “Amazon Singles” approach. The contributors include:

  • Jon Meacham, executive editor, Random House
  • James A. Baker III, former Secretary of State
  • Karen Hughes, former counselor to President George W. Bush and former Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy
  • Richard N. Haass, president, Council on Foreign Relations
  • Bing West, author, The Wrong War, and former Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs
  • Andrew Exum, fellow, Center for a New American Security
  • Daniel Markey, senior fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia, Council on Foreign Relations
  • Evan Thomas, award-winning historian and former editor-at-large, Newsweek

Meacham has had a bumpy road in the digital news maelstrom, bouncing from Newsweek recently to Random House. He’s a Pulitzer Prize winning author and an excellent essayist and editor. He’s also good at drumming up cooperative authors, it appears. The coterie of writers he’s assembled is nothing to sneeze at, and their turnaround time is simply astonishing, as is the sale price of the book. It’s really a special issue magazine in some ways, but not quite — it’s too long.

As of this writing, it’s #319 in sales in the Kindle store.

Certainly, there are few events as galvanizing as the death of Osama Bin Laden. The issue of the New Yorker that arrived at my house today is full of stories about the dead terrorist. TIME magazine rushed two issues out last week about the event. But those are typical magazine turnarounds. Most national magazines have infrastructure in place to split editions, print editions, and inject issues into the mail on the heels of major events.

So, of course, when you have an ex-magazine executive and editor now part of a book publisher, you’re going to get an instabook when events compel coverage. And this is, to me, a significant hybridization moment — books can now be created and distributed as quickly as magazines. With magazines becoming more special-issue-oriented and niche, there’s a convergence lurking. Can book subscriptions be far behind?

I’ll be reading this new book about Bin Laden this week. My Kindle’s resting on top of my magazines.

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About Kent Anderson

I am the CEO of RedLink and RedLink Network, a past-President of SSP, and the founder of the Scholarly Kitchen. I’ve worked as Publisher at AAAS/Science, CEO/Publisher of JBJS, Inc., a publishing executive at the Massachusetts Medical Society, Publishing Director of the New England Journal of Medicine, and Director of Medical Journals at the American Academy of Pediatrics. Opinions on social media or blogs are my own.


5 thoughts on ““Beyond Bin Laden” — A Hint at a New Way Forward for Long-form Journalism

  1. The hybridization is indeed something to consider–just as the ebook-by-interview concept has its value. But this hybridization through Kindle distribution eliminates much of the marketing that the eBook requires. Moreover, the idea trumps too the normal approach, which might be to do an instabook on the Navy Seals. Turns out, there are more than a dozen published already. Great updating…as usual.

    Posted by | May 11, 2011, 10:24 am
  2. As of this writing, it’s number 3 in the Kindle store.

    Posted by Barry Beckham | May 11, 2011, 10:31 am
  3. Instant publishing has a long history. My former employer, Princeton University Press, published the Smyth Report about the Manhattan Project and the atomic bomb within a week after it was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki:

    Posted by Sandy Thatcher | May 12, 2011, 12:50 pm
    • I didn’t know about this, so thanks. It seems different in the sense that it was written by insiders and given extensive review before release, so the “instant” part was the printing, not the writing and editing based on sudden events.

      Posted by Kent Anderson | May 12, 2011, 12:57 pm


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The mission of the Society for Scholarly Publishing (SSP) is "[t]o advance scholarly publishing and communication, and the professional development of its members through education, collaboration, and networking." SSP established The Scholarly Kitchen blog in February 2008 to keep SSP members and interested parties aware of new developments in publishing.
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