Michael Bryant is the Future of the Book Business


Michael Bryant's aborted attempts to leverage social media to argue that he was innocent after an altercation that led to death of cyclist Darcy Alan Sheppard two years ago failed to gain him much sympathy — despite the best efforts of PR firm Navigator — but Penguin Canada seem confident that the tale of the former Ontario attorney general's confrontation will make a few bucks in book form.

Confidence in the best-seller status of 28 Seconds next fall — if not the need to reassure critics of Bryant's sincerity — has already been reflected in the pledge to donate a portion of the profits to a foundation that treats adolescent mental health and substance abuse, factors that presumably played a role in the incident.

Nonetheless, much like how the initial attempts to refute reports that Bryant played no role in Sheppard's death were refuted online by cycling advocates, the memoir about the incident and surrounding media circus will no doubt be held to similar scrutiny.

Footage of the incident on YouTube won't hamper interest in Bryant's story, of course. Books remain the preferred storytelling format of any public figure who has come under fire — no doubt because a notorious name can command a healthy advance.

Conrad Black earned a predictable wave of attention for his new prison memoir, A Matter of Principle, along with his lawyer Edward Greenspan refuting the blame that his lack of courtroom skill led the media mogul to serve two stints in the slammer. David Davidar, who left his job at the helm of Penguin Canada following a sexual harassment suit, has spurred natural curiosity for his new memoir. And anticipation has already started building for an April 2012 tell-all from Richard Stursberg, the former CBC executive who resigned last year, tantalizingly titled Tower of Babble.

For all the assumption that these controversial figures would be better off explaining their sides of the story via the internet, it's obvious that a formally published page packs more potency, even as disruption to the business model continues to escalate.

Amazon created a stir on Monday after The New York Times reported on just how aggressive its own original publishing efforts are going to be. A memoir by Penny Marshall is evidently worth $800,000 when they don't have to pay a middleman — especially when more copies are being delivered electronically than not.

Canada has inevitably been slower to catch on to the opportunities afforded by self-published e-books, as Kobo doesn't offer a short-form category geared toward impulse buying, although the cheaper device's parent company Indigo is reportedly more preoccupied with clearing out much print inventory this season.

Where does that leave customers accustomed to dropping into a bricks-and-mortar location for a hit of hardcover scandal? Michael Bryant's true story about an death increasingly seems like the kind of book being counted on to keep traditional publishers alive.

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