Even before the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States began its summary news conference yesterday morning, paperback copies of "The 9/11 Commission Report" went on sale. Though the report was also posted online, there was interest -- mild in some places, more in others -- in bookstores across the country.
At Barnes & Noble in Georgetown, booksellers set out several stacks -- on a display table and by a cash register -- around 11:20 a.m.
Gregory Mosher, in town to direct "The Glass Menagerie" at the Kennedy Center, was one of the first to plunk down $10 plus tax for the report of 560-plus pages. In the store to buy stationery for opening-night notes to cast and crew, Mosher noticed the dozen or so copies piled on the checkout counter.
"The 9/11 commission report is out today?" he asked a bookseller. "I'll take one of those too."
On his way out, he said he wanted to read the report himself because "it's going to get spun like crazy." He said he would read it today while on a plane to Barcelona.
Chad Golder, 25, picked up two copies -- one for himself and one for a colleague. Golder, a Yale University law student and a summer associate at a Washington firm, said he would "definitely read parts of it immediately."
At Borders Books & Music on L Street NW in downtown Washington, a small crowd milled about the front door during lunchtime waiting for copies to arrive. The delivery appeared about 2:30. "I thought we'd missed the boat," said Matthew Ballard, a manager of the store, but he still sold "several hundred" during the day.
Meanwhile, the Borders on 14th Street received its shipment of 250 books about 11:30. Manager Megan Steele said those were sold by 1 p.m. "People aren't buying one, they're buying six," she said.
At Politics & Prose, bookseller Cleve Corner said in late afternoon, "We've sold 75 copies so far."
In Seattle, the Elliott Bay Book Co. received about 60 copies. Owner Peter Aaron said he sold 15 or 16 in the first three hours. "There's been a lot more interest from the media than from the general public," Aaron said.
Laura Zioch, owner of the small, independent Altamont Books in Livermore, Calif., ordered 10 copies but didn't expect to receive the shipment until today. "We have three of them claimed already," she said.
Lyn Roberts, manager of Square Books in Oxford, Miss., said she had ordered "not a whole lot. I didn't order as many as I ordered of Bill Clinton's book." Her books had not arrived either. There were no advance orders, but, Roberts said, several customers had called and asked about the book. She wasn't sure when the box would be delivered, but she said she'd call the publisher, W.W. Norton, and ask them: "Where the hell are our books?"
Ernie Garrison, manager of the Tattered Cover bookstore in lower downtown Denver, said the firm's two stores had placed an order "in the hundreds" of copies. "When I came in at 7 a.m.," Garrison said, "the phones were ringing for it."
He said, "Interest has been very high." Clinton had been at the store on Tuesday and signed 1,400 of his books.
By 1 p.m. yesterday, the 9/11 report was at the top of the Barnes & Noble online bestseller list and it was No. 2 on the Amazon.com list.
Bookstores and wholesale booksellers ordered more than 500,000 copies from W.W. Norton. "It's clearly selling well," said Norton President Drake McFeely. "We're pretty confident that the 600,000 or so that we've printed will be enough for the foreseeable future."
Jim Milliot of Publishers Weekly thinks McFeely might be right. "The highlights and the gist of the report are already well known. I'm not sure how many people want to delve into the nitty-gritty detail," Milliot said. "I don't think it's one of those books that people quote-unquote have to have. Clinton was a cachet book. This isn't that."