If I did what?

A lot has been said about the latest waste of paper that OJ Simpson was trying to peddle. As a bookseller, my primary concern when it comes to controversial titles is making sure they’re available at the store for whoever wants to purchase them, and taking pains not to over-represent either side of the issue. Even in political season, when the voluminous, bile-filled titles come flying faster than we can stock them, I will put out balanced displays and choke back my own viewpoints in order to let someone else display theirs. But this (thankfully cancelled) shocking and disgusting attempted literary smash-and-grab sets a new low… and I thought I had seen everything.

Now, I feel very strongly that this book is an abhorrent, sophomoric, blatant attempt at milking the seedy side of the celebrity cash cow, but in my opinion, the fact that OJ tried to do this is secondary. Instead, my interest lies more with the publisher, ReganBooks, and their history of publicity manipulation.

The President of ReganBooks, Judith Regan, is a former Fox News commentator whose first successes in the literary market were (of course) celebrity memoirs, most notably that of Kathie Lee Gifford. She’s also the woman who had the much-publicized affair with Bernard Kerik that came to light when Bush wanted to nominate him as the head of the Dept of Homeland Security. (Funny enough, his 2001 memoir “The Lost Son” was put out by none other than ReganBooks. Heh.)

ReganBooks dabbles in many subjects, and does none of them well: fad-chasing diet and appearance books; the most vitriolic titles on both ends of the political spectrum (Sean Hannity, Michael Moore); insipid self-help books; and plenty of books that we, to put it nicely, shelve away from children. ReganBooks is an imprint of HarperCollins, and they certainly aren’t above publishing ghostwritten celebrity tell-alls in an attempt to make an end run around the Bestseller list… problem being, they’re usually desperate B-list celebs, lukewarm pundits, or flash-in-a-pan zeitgeist hunters.

In other words, this latest attempt by the imprint to make a few bucks off of someone else’s sorrow is admittedly egregious, but I’m hardly surprised, given Judith Regan’s track record for gutter-scraping. As a fellow bookseller said on a Livejournal forum a few days ago, some people are born with hearts, and some have cash registers where their hearts should be. I’m just glad that particular cash register’s going to sit silently this time.

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