Want to turn a political treatise into a runaway hit? It helps to have ''9/11'' in your title. (Just ask Michael Moore.) According to W.W. Norton, publisher of ''The 9/11 Commission Report,'' the federal panel's findings about the security failures surrounding the 2001 terrorist attacks, sold 150,000 copies on Thursday, the day the book was released in stores. It shot immediately to the top slot on the online bestseller lists at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Bookstores nationwide reported selling out their copies, and Norton anticipated that strong sales would continue, shipping a print run of 600,000. Not bad for a weighty political tome issued by the government, especially one that can be downloaded for free at the commission's website.
Ironically, Norton may not earn any profits from its new bestseller. The trade paperback retails for just $10 and is available discounted to $8 or $9 from online merchants. According to the New York Post, that means that, while booksellers will profit, Norton's earnings may not cover the cost of printing, shipping, and promoting the 585-page book. Norton president Drake McFeely told the Post his company would ''probably lose money'' on the report. ''We intended the publication to be a public service,'' he said.