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Politico, Random House will team up on instant e-books

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(Read caption) Working with Random House, Politico hopes to be the first to create detailed, definitive, book-length accounts of the 2012 presidential race, written and published in real time.

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It’s an odd marriage, a May-December romance, but a youthful partner may be just what the publishing industry needs.

Yes, Random House is teaming up with the high-octane, whip-smart political news site Politico to publish a series of four e-books about the 2012 presidential campaign.

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The books will tell the story of the 2012 presidential election in real time and will be available only in electronic format, with the first one to be released this fall. Each book will be between 20,000 and 30,000 words, written by Mike Allen, Politico’s chief White House correspondent, and former Newsweek editor-at-large Evan Thomas. (Former Newsweek editor-in-chief Jon Meacham, who became executive editor and executive vice president at Random House, will edit.)

It’s a completely new venture in publishing and political reporting – and a bold one, too.

Generally, post-election tell-all accounts from inside presidential campaigns emerge long after elections are over. Politico, however, is hoping to bring its rapid-fire reporting to e-books and be the first to create detailed, definitive accounts of the presidential race in real time.

“The digital format gives us the opportunity to do what we have not been able to before – release our titles almost instantly. This publishing partnership will give readers a seat on the campaign bus,” said Gina Centrello, president and publisher of the Random House Publishing Group, in a statement.

It seems even books, long the domain of patient souls, are responding to the short attention spans and instant-gratification culture of an audience that’s been fed a steady diet of 24-hour news, Twitter, Facebook, and mobile updates on breaking news. (Remember insta-books, like the ones written 48 hours after bin Laden’s death and before William & Kate’s marriage?)

“Our audience, their preference would certainly be not to wait until the end of the election,” said Jim VandeHei, Politico’s executive editor, to the New York Times. “And we’re going to test how viable this is.”

It’s an experiment for the publishing industry, too, which, with the introduction of electronic books, is trying to redefine itself as more current, more immediately relevant. And as the New York Times reported, it’s also a way to reach consumers more frequently.

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“An impetus here is to encourage people to think of book publishers in a more periodical way,” Mr. Meacham told the Times.

It’s an exciting marriage for both publishing and political reporting and it’s sure to add a whole new level of frenzy to the 2012 race. We can’t wait.

Husna Haq is a Monitor contributor.

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