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Culture

Clinton book mania explodes on the Web

Prices of autographed copies soar on eBay, while former president gets three of Amazon's top 10 slots.

Just hours after former U.S. president Bill Clinton finished a first round of book-signings for his new memoir, published Tuesday, autographed copies were selling on eBay for $250 and more.

Some of those copies hadn't even been signed yet. One St. Paul, Minn., seller named Jason Gabbert, an eBay regular and longtime Clinton fan, promised that his family and he had tickets to next week's Los Angeles book signing and were guaranteed a few autographed copies to sell.

"It's amazing the effect this guy has," said Gabbert, who has already sold a half-dozen autographed copies through eBay. "The demand on this Clinton stuff, it's a frenzy. He's a very popular guy, whether people want to admit it or not."

It wasn't just on eBay that the publication of Clinton's avidly anticipated memoir set off a surge of demand and interest, however.

The book, called "My Life," has been the subject of a publicity blitz over the past several weeks, including an hour-long interview on "60 Minutes" last Sunday night. It made the cover of Time magazine, and there have been stories in several newspapers about Clinton himself, about the book and even about the publicity of which those stories were a part.

For days before the memoir's release, the popular Drudge Report Web site ran a small section called "Clinton Summer," linking to assorted stories about the book.

That broad publicity blitz, along with Clinton's own still-strong popularity, has translated immediately into sales.

On the day of publication, the memoir became No. 1 on Amazon.com's list of top-selling books. But that wasn't all--the audio CD version was ranked No. 7, the large-print edition No. 8, and the audio cassette version ranked No. 24.

Like the people who stood in line for more than 24 hours to have a front place at the first book signing in Manhattan, at least one reader raced to be the first Amazon customer to post a review.

That reviewer, whose personal Amazon page identified him as a chaplain in Bloomington, Ill. named Kurt Messick, said he had found a bookstore that would let him purchase a copy at midnight on Monday. He gave the book generally good reviews, saying it compared favorably to past presidential autobiographies.

Other reviewers have been less kind. The New York Times' top reviewer called the book "sloppy, self-indulgent and often eye-crossingly dull." in a column entitled "A Pastiche of a Presidency" that was forwarded widely around the Web after its publication last Sunday. The Times did provide the entire first chapter of the book for readers who still wanted a look, however.

For bargain hunters, the Web quickly gave a leg up to people seeking a few dollars off the hefty $35 street price. On Tuesday, Amazon was offering a 40 percent discount, pricing the book at $21, while Walmart.com was selling it for $18.90.