The Cutline

Phone-hacking’s first book deals; are e-book titles next?

Joe Pompeo
The Cutline

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Well, at least one facet of the British phone-hacking saga is moving quickly. As the investigation into the scandal plods along, two of its players have landed book deals based on their involvement in the affair, which has been roiling News Corp. for weeks.

The first deal is a very obvious call for the enterprising publishers. Nick Davies, The Guardian reporter who has doggedly chronicled the scandal with game-changing news breaks such as the recent allegations that News of the World journalists accessed the private voicemails of a murdered 13-year-old girl in 2002, has sold a book called "Hack Attack" jointly to Faber & Faber in the United States and to a British Random House imprint across the pond, according to the New York Times. The release date is set for fall 2012.

The ink has likewise dried on a deal with Penguin Press for Tom Watson, one of the British MPs who grilled current and former News Corp. executives Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks during a parliamentary hearing last week. That title, to be co-written by a journalist from U.K. newspaper The Independent, is due out before year's end, according to The Guardian's Roy Greenslade.

"One problem all writers will face in the short term is the likelihood of people being charged later this year. If that happens, the sub judice rule would kick in," writes Greenslade--referring to a mandate that can limit public comment on court proceedings in England--"certainly preventing the wide-ranging news coverage. Book authors will need to be careful too."

While further print deals seem inevitable, the phone-hacking scandal is also perfectly tailored to the topical, rapid-fire ethos that individual news outlets have adapted in taking up e-book projects.

News organizations have been quick out of the gate with e-book treatments of fast-moving news stories such as the WikiLeaks saga and the Arab Spring. But at least four prominent outlets that have dabbled in ebooks--the New York Times, ProPublica, Time and the Daily Beast--have yet to tee up any digital accounts of the phone-hacking debacle, their reps confirmed. Jim Schachter, one of the editors behind e-book efforts at the Times, which issued a 133,000-word WikiLeaks e-book in January, said via email: "Nothing in the works at this time." (The Times has been second only to The Guardian--whose editor-in-chief is out of the office and therefore could not respond to the same request for comment--on the phone-hacking beat.)

Meanwhile, a cursory search of the Amazon store reveals that there is at least one available e-book for all the phone-hacking addicts out there. That title, "Rupert Murdoch and the News International Phone Hacking Scandal; How it All Went Down," by Kevin H. Prall, can be yours for $2.99.

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