Barack Obama's Tall Tales; Free Harry Potter

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Today in books and publishing: Questioning the stories of Obama in a new book; free, unlimited Potter for Amazon Prime subscribers; Alice Walker protests Israel's treatment of Palestine, won't allow Hebrew translation of The Color Purple.

Questioning Barack Obama. The Washington Post's David Maraniss has a book out on Barack Obama in which he "claims to document the many ways — some very small, a few large — in which Mr. Obama’s youthfully constructed narrative appears to be contradicted by the people and events in his life." More succinctly: Did Obama lie? And if so, how so? The New York Times' Michael D. Shear points out that these kinds of questions showcase the downside for politicians who document their lives in memoirs to introduce themselves to the American public. Quite obviously, what a politician puts in his memoir will come up against scrutiny, particularly in a presidential year. And so, "Now, Republicans are poised to try and portray Mr. Obama as having been less than truthful in his recollections about his life. Party officials and aides to Mr. Romney’s campaign are scouring Mr. Maraniss’s book to find ways in which they can use it to their political advantage."

As for Maraniss' book, it seems to indicate, maybe, that Obama's life was just a little more humdrum and routine than he may have made it out to be, for what appear to be thematic book reasons. (Obama of course, admitted in his book that it as "an approximation" and that characters had been "compressed or combined.") Also, says Maraniss, the death of Obama's step-grandfather, said to be killed while fighting Dutch troops in Indonesia, was a complete myth—"he died trying to hang drapes."  [NYT]

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Related: You now have two new books to choose from on Marco Rubio, possible contender as Mitt Romney's running mate: Rubio's own autobiography, as well as "a competing biography from a Washington Post reporter who dug up errors in the senator’s stories about his Cuban parents." 

Free Harry Potter. All seven Harry Potter books are available for Amazon's Kindle Owners' Lending Library, via an exclusive licensing deal with Pottermore. That means Kindle owners who subscribe to Amazon Prime can borrow one book at a time for free "with an unlimited supply of each title and no waiting list," according to Russ Grandinetti, vice president of Kindle Content. [CNET]

Alice Walker refuses permission to translate The Color Purple into Hebrew. In a letter sent to Yediot Books, Walker protested Israel's treatment of Palestine, "referring to a citizen’s tribunal made up of human rights activists, including Walker, that last year investigated Israel’s alleged violations of international law." The writer said that because of that, she would not allow the publisher to release a Hebrew-language translation of her Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel. Walker's agent confirmed to The New York Times that she had written the letter, which is posted on the website of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. [Huffington Post]

The crime of selling a banned book. Malaysian Borders bookstore manager, Nik Raina Nik Abdul Aziz, was charged with selling Allah, Liberty and Love, by Irshad Manji, which was banned in May for being against Islam. He faces two years in prison if convicted. [AP]

Industry research firm IBISWorld has revised its report on the U.K. book retailers industry, and it's not particularly good news: "The book retailing market will continue on its downwards trend over the next five years to 2017-18, with sales forecast to fall. While e-books are forecast to perform well, the extra demand generated by this new format will be insufficient to propel the industry back into growth." The greatest hurdle, per the report, is regarding external operators like supermarkets, and the increased competition they bring. [PRWeb]

Still... Books are resilient! "I have one certainty," writes Peter Osnos, "books will endure even as those of us responsible for them are in a perennial, sometimes frenetic contest to keep pace with change." [The Atlantic]

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.