Where are all the rapid-turnaround e-books on the U.K. phone-hacking scandal?, we wondered earlier this week.
The saga has so far produced two print book deals, including one for Guardian reporter and resident champion of the phone-hacking beat Nick Davies, who has tirelessly chronicled the many shocking twists in the reported criminal behavior within the British tabloid wing of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. empire..
But news organizations, which have been quick to churn out electronic treatments of other fast-moving stories (WikiLeaks, the Arab Spring, the operation that killed Osama bin Laden) as the e-reading market picks up speed, don't seem to be responding-- yet!--with the same vigor in conceiving digital titles on the scandal.
Vanity Fair appears to be the first out of the gate to produce such an offering, with "Rupert Murdoch: The Master Mogul of Fleet Street," described in a press released as "a probing, behind-the-scenes, no-holds-barred look at the embattled News Corp. chairman whose media empire is straining under the pressure of a growing phone-hacking scandal." The title hit the Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook stores today for $3.99.
"Tracing the rise of the ultimate media baron and illuminating the roots of his current predicament, 'Rupert Murdoch: The Master Mogul of Fleet Street,' paints a truly intimate portrait of Murdoch from his days commanding tabloids on London's Fleet Street to his cunning maneuvers on Wall Street, from his acquisition of 20th Century Fox to his launch of Fox News," the release states.
The e-books trade has yet to bulk into a significant threat to the traditional book industry model. But it has proved an accommodating format for news outlets seeking to somehow squeeze revenue from readers for quality long-form journalism in digital form. E-books are cheap and easy to produce; they don't require extensive design work and can be culled from a newspaper or magazine's existing cache of reporting on a topic. As a result, media companies are starting to embrace the format as "a welcome addition to the bottom line," as Nieman Journalism Lab's Joshua Benton put it. The New York Times e-book about WikiLeaks, for instance, sold thousands of copies at $5.99 a pop in the first few months following its January pub date and was quickly picked up in paperback by Grove/Atlantic. ProPublica, Time, the Daily Beast, Foreign Policy, the Washington Post, ABC News and others also have jumped on the e-book bandwagon.
The Murdoch collection is Vanity Fair's second such effort. The magazine launched its e-book career with a trove of reportage on Elizabeth Taylor following the iconic film star's death in late March. Reached for comment, a Vanity Fair spokeswoman did not have sales numbers for the Taylor title handy, but said: "We are committed to doing e-books."
"The Master Mogul of Fleet Street," meanwhile, has stories about Murdoch dating from 1984 to the present scandal, including contributions from veteran News Corp. chroniclers Sarah Ellison and Michael Wolff. Vanity Fair editor-in-chief Graydon Carter also got in on the action with an introduction that puts the whole phone-hacking affair in context.
"It is Shakespearean in detail and scope," he writes.