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Range of Hurricane Katrina-related books selling well

There’s no shortage of books about Hurricane Katrina as various segments rush to document the worst natural disaster in our nation’s history. Booksellers agree that the quality of these publications varies. They also agree that interest remains high and sales are good.

Lemuria Books of Jackson currently has six titles in the Katrina section. The Time magazine book, “Hurricane Katrina, The Storm That Changed America,” has sold the most, manager Thomas Miller said. “In my opinion, it’s the nicest of the ones we have here. It’s of better quality than some that were put out hastily.”

He says there was a lot of interest in the books during the holidays and although somewhat slower, they’re still selling. “People want to see pictures. A lot of our customers lost cable and did not see anything for a week after the storm,” he added.

More books likely

At Jackson’s Barnes & Noble bookstore, manager Mark Walker says “The Wrath of Hurricane Katrina” is the biggest seller among the storm books. The book was published by American Products Publishing and has 64 pages.

“It has been in the top 10 sellers since it came out and is still selling well,” he said. “People here want to see photos of the Mississippi Coast and this one has the most.”

He says Barnes & Noble gets a lot of requests for books about Katrina, and he predicts more books on the subject will be forthcoming. His store has no hardback Katrina books although they did have a hardback put out by CNN and he hopes to get more. “We sent some of the ones we had to stores in Louisiana,” Walker said. “I think Katrina as a topic will be popular throughout this year.”

Barnes & Noble also sold a lot of National Geographic’s special issue on Hurricane Katrina. They would like more but Walker says they can’t get their hands on any.

Owner Diane Shepherd reports a lot of interest in the hurricane at Main Street Books in Hattiesburg. “The books are selling well. ‘August 29 Katrina’ by local author Bob Pittman is selling the best. It’s mostly pictures but has some text,” she said. “The Time-Life book is the next most popular.”
She said Pittman’s book has a lot of photos of Hattiesburg and the Coast — places her customers want to see.

At Turning Pages bookstore in Natchez, both the Time-Life and CNN books are selling really well, according to owner Mary Emerick. “We have a lot of people still here from New Orleans and the Coast. Some are in temporary housing and some are staying,” she said. “They’re interested in these books. We’re having good sales.”

Sales support relief

A book solely devoted to showing the destruction on the Mississippi Coast is not yet available in bookstores. The title is ‘Katrina: Eight Hours that Changed the Mississippi Coast Forever’ and it was published by Biloxi’s Sun Herald newspaper. The hardback, coffee table style book is currently sold through the daily paper’s Web site and by telephone. John McFarland, marketing services director, says that’s because all of the proceeds go to hurricane relief.

Currently, all of the money goes to the Mississippi Recovery Hurricane Fund and is designated for historic preservation. The Coast lost about 1,000 homes and buildings that were listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Some 2,500 were damaged. This fund will go toward stabilizing those properties.

“We want to do as much ourselves as we can to raise the most money at the full price,” he said. “We are approaching 40,000 in sales and expect to sell at least 50,000. The next step will be to go through distributors who will place the book in stores.”

McFarland said the newspaper wants to build up the fund before turning the book over to distributors who will require a portion of the sales price.

“We thought it was important to tell the story, and the Coast needs the money to rebuild,” he said. “It was the natural thing to do, and most important because the national publications focus on New Orleans.”

The newspaper is telling the story of the storm every day. The 122-page book consists of full-color photos, many of which ran in the daily paper.

Tough choices

McFarland says the hardest part was choosing which photos from the 2,000 available to use. “We had tons of pictures because we’re here covering the story every day,” he said. “From 2,000 we narrowed it down to 1,000 and then worked down from that. We took our time to try to produce a good book and we think we have.”

He praises coordinating editor Dorothy Wilson and Knight-Ridder sister newspaper The Kansas City Star Special Books Division for their help in producing the book. Now the Biloxi newspaper is working on a second Katrina book to be titled “The Coast Before and After,” hoping to print in early March. The second book will include many photos that have not run in the daily paper, and it will be sold the same way as the first book.

“The before photos are all we have left of many places that were destroyed,” McFarland said. “People away from here probably don’t realize how many things are gone and won’t be back.”

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at llofton656@aol.com.

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