Obama's overnight fame renews interest in book

Tuesday, August 3, 2004

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- The surge of interest in Barack Obama after his speech to the Democratic National Convention is spilling over to the book he wrote a decade ago, with a first edition copy going for $255 on eBay and prerelease orders for a new edition already putting it on best-seller lists.

The first edition of the U.S. Senate candidate's "Dreams From My Father" had started at $20 on eBay, but after 28 bids on the Internet auction site, it was up to $255 Monday evening.

At a campaign stop, Obama noted that a new edition is coming out Aug. 10 -- "not a moment too soon. I don't want people spending that much for my book."

That new edition is already making its way onto the Internet best-seller lists. Pre-release orders had pushed it into the top 50 at Amazon.com, and it was at No. 9 in the biography category at Barnesandnoble.com.

Brenda Marsh, vice president for content at Barnesandnoble.com, said Obama's book was down somewhere in the thousands a couple of weeks ago. By the morning of his keynote address to the Democratic convention, it was at No. 676 in overall sales.

The day after the speech it jumped up to No. 12, although it has since dropped back to 98.

"I think people who heard that speech want to know more about him," Marsh said. "You have the power of the media. You have the power of his words and his presence."

"Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance" is Obama's memoir of growing up in Hawaii the son of a black man and white woman. He discusses trying to come to grips with his racial identity, a period of rebellion that included drug use, traveling to Africa and becoming a community activist in Chicago.

It was published in 1995 to strong reviews but only modest sales. Obama said 15,000 copies were printed, and he still has several boxes of them in his basement.

Convention appearanceCrown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, decided to reissue the book after Obama won the Illinois Democratic Senate primary in March. Then he delivered a keynote address that thrilled Democrats, and interest in the book took off.

Crown plans to print 50,000 copies initially and is prepared to pump out more, said senior editor Rachel Klayman.

"I'm superstitious, but it's pretty safe to say the numbers are going to skyrocket from here," she said.

"The timing is very, very fortuitous, but I think it's really well-deserved," Klayman added. "He's a real rarity. He's a politician who can really write."

Associated Press writer Jan Dennis contributed to this report from Bloomington.

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