FCIC Tries To Make Money For US Via Book Deal

News came out last week that the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (FCIC) has signed a book deal with Little, Brown and Co. to publish their final report, due out in December 2010. The FCIC is a ten-member group appointed by the United States government in 2009 to look into the causes of the current financial crisis that started in 2007.

The FCIC has conducted investigations, held a variety of hearings throughout 2010 to receive public comments, and questioned some of the key figures from the financial industry and government agencies about the crisis. The final report is being written by journalist Matt Cooper and a team of writers, a move to try to create a cohesive narrative of the events and make it more accessible to readers.

This is not the first time that the publishing world has worked with the government. Recent major government reports like the 9/11 Commission Report and the Starr Report were published with the help of major publishers to help improve distribution of the reports. This is the first time, though, that the government has been able to get a book advance and royalties on the report, which will be paid directly to the US Treasury. It’s a little bit of a shock that the government was able to get this from Little, Brown and Co., considering that the report will be available for free download.

The other interesting aspect to this story is the potential of the e-book version of the report. The Commission and the publisher are working to add more depth to the electronic version of the report by linking parts of the report to documents, videos and sound bytes. Since e-book readers have become so common these days, I would imagine that the e-book version will sell well.

It will be interesting to see how well the report does, and it could set a new standard for future government reports. I’m not sure that it will do as well as Little, Brown thinks it will because, unlike the 9/11 Commission’s report, the FCIC report deals with a more dense and murkier subject matter that doesn’t lend itself to a narrative. There’s an interesting dynamic with this report, in that the government will make some money back on it based on sales, so there seems to be an incentive to write and promote the report in a way to generate demand. Will that lead the commission’s report to have a more sensationalistic edge? Do you think the government should be making money back on a public report?

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