Books | Shelf Life

The timely e-book: 'Truman Fires MacArthur' and Gen. Stanley McChrystal

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mccullogh-mcchrystalImage Credit: Carolyn Kaster/Getty ImagesTiming is everything. With this mantra in mind, Simon & Schuster released an e-book Friday titled Truman Fires MacArthur, a historical account of the 33rd president’s dismissal of his famous Pacific general. The e-book publication came only 48 hours after Pres. Barack Obama sacked Gen. Stanley McChrystal over his comments in a controversial Rolling Stone article. The pamphlet-length e-book, culled from material in David McCullough’s 1993 Pulitzer Prize-winning biography Truman, demonstrates a new use of digital technology: the timely back-catalog reissue.

Special editions of physical books have to be planned months in advance, but with no printing or distribution requirements, e-books can be turned around in a matter of days, making up-to-the-minute relevance much more feasible. Excerpts and titles that might normally be difficult to track down could see release within reasonable propinquity to the events they’re pegged to. It’s good to see a major publisher like Simon & Schuster making use of the unique abilities of e-books rather than just spending all its time trying to ensure the experience is as close as possible to that of traditional books. Are there any other back-list books that might be particularly apropos to current events? Maybe a re-release of Upton Sinclair’s Oil! in light of the BP fiasco, or a World Cup 2010 edition of The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick?

Originally posted June 28 2010 — 12:37 PM EDT

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