For nearly two years, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has been investigating Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election, and earlier today, the results of his investigation finally became available. It’s the most eagerly awaited report in years, and reporters and newsreaders alike are rushing to the Department of Justice’s website to see the newly published 448-page report.
At the same time, publishers are also scrambling to get their own editions of the report into bookstores and onto ebook platforms as quickly as possible. Skyhorse Publishing, Scribner, Melville House, Audible, and Barnes & Noble will all be publishing their own editions of the final report. Some ebook editions could arrive as soon as tomorrow (Scribner confirmed to The Verge that it expects to release its edition Friday), while print editions could take up to two weeks. Skyhorse has said that it plans to begin shipping its print edition “about 7 days from release,” while Scribner has said that it hopes to have its print edition out by April 26th. Melville House wants its version out “in no more than 10 days,” while Barnes & Noble says that its “special editions with related materials in print” will hit stores the week of the April 29th. Audible lists its edition for April 30th.
The process is more than just hitting copy and paste for publishers. The released document isn’t searchable as text, so simply translating the 448-page PDF file into a text format will be somewhat tricky. Any resulting text file will then have to be proofread against the initial report to ensure there wasn’t an error in the encoding. Publishers will then have to set the type, translate the many redactions, and shape the legal document into something resembling a book. Speaking to The Wall Street Journal, Skyhorse publisher Tony Lyons indicated that “a team of nine people plans on pulling an all-nighter Thursday” to get its edition in front of customers as quickly as possible. Audible and Scribner will also be recording audio versions of the report.
Legally, Mueller’s report is in the public domain, making it exempt from copyright protections and available to any publisher that wants to print it. But as long as the report is freely available online from the Department of Justice, why would anyone buy one of their own? Kari Mautsch, the co-owner of Yankee Bookshop in Woodstock, Vermont, told The Verge that she’s already ordered a number of copies to sell in her store. When Simon & Schuster was the first out of the gate to announce its decision, “we decided to order on the heavy side since we knew there would be local interest in having physical copies of the report — as opposed to having to read it online or on a screen.”
A key point, Mautsch says, is that not everyone wants to read an entire 300-page document on their computer screen. There’s clearly demand as well; at the time of this article’s publishing, Scribner’s edition of the report is sitting at the #3 best-selling slot in the United States History section and #49 on the site’s overall best-seller list. And that was before the report was even released to the public.
Some of these editions will come with some extras: Scribner’s edition will come with an “introduction by investigative journalists Rosalind S. Helderman and Matt Zapotosky,” as well as a “timeline of significant events, and a cast of the investigation’s key figures.” Skyhorse’s edition will come with an introduction from attorney Alan Dershowitz, author of The Case Against Impeaching Trump.
Others won’t come with additional context or introductions. Melville House will release a cheaper mass-market edition of the report, and Barnes & Noble’s digital edition will be a “PDF / direct replica of historic The Mueller Report as released by the U.S. Department of Justice, Barr redactions and all.” Melville House publisher Dennis Johnson told Publishers Weekly that he felt that the inclusion of other reporting from places like The Washington Post gives it “a kind of bias and context. These books should not be contextualized. That is not good publishing.”
In all but the rarest of cases, it can take up to a year for a book to go from manuscript to final product. In instances when high-profile books are rushed to market because of demand, that timeline can be shortened considerably. In 2016, Tor.com published a neat overview on how George R.R. Martin’s long-awaited Winds of Winter could be published in a mere three months, going through all of the steps that the publisher needs to take, including editing, creating the cover art, marketing the title to booksellers, formatting, and printing and distributing it. Martin’s still-yet-to-be-released epic fantasy novel is obviously a far different product than that of Robert Mueller’s report, but the physical product will still go through a similar process to be printed as a book. Mueller’s report will most likely get to skip a couple of the steps that Tor.com outlined. The publishers likely won’t be changing the actual content, and most have already come up with covers for their respective editions.