Politico Bookshelf: how a website becomes a publisher

Political news site Politico will be joining with Random House to market and publish political books.

The Politico Bookshelf allows the popular news site to test the waters of publishing with titles like "Playbook 212" – even as it boosts its brand.

Even as we lose the in-person browsing possibilities at bricks-and-mortar sellers like Borders, a new bookstore is hitting the block: a place where you can browse, read, and buy – and it’s all online.

Political news site Politico announced the creation of “Politico Bookshelf” Wednesday, an online bookstore curated by Politico’s editors and run by Random House. The virtual bookshelf will feature a trove of titles – paper and electronic – on current events, politics, history, business and economics, biography, and policy.

It’s a new model for the DC-based news publication: Shoppers browse or search for titles on the virtual bookshelf, then purchase them through a selection of online retailers including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Politics and Prose, and Apple’s iBookstore.

“We’re thrilled to be working with Random House to develop this new marketplace,” John Harris, POLITICO’s editor-in-chief, said in a statement. “By combining the great minds and writers in political journalism and publishing, we’re able to offer our readers a deeper read into the political subjects that interest them.”

Among the coolest features is “What Politico is Reading,” which highlights the staff’s current reads. (Politico White House correspondent Mike Allen, for instance, is reading Jeffrey Sachs’ “The Price of Civilization”).

Among the 2,743 books available for purchase thus far on Politico Bookshelf were Walter Isaacson’s biography, “Steve Jobs”; Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain’s “This is Herman Cain!”; as well as financial-crisis tales “Griftopia” by Matt Taibbi, and “All the Devils are Here” by Bethany McLean. Political fiction, an unexpected treat, also got top billing on the Bookshelf, including “Habibi” by Craig Thompson, and “The Submission” by Amy Waldman.

The new virtual bookstore also prominently features a pre-order button for Politico’s other foray into book publishing: its e-book “Playbook 2012: The Right Fights Back,” by Mike Allen and Evan Thomas, edited by Random House’s Jon Meacham. The book is due out Nov. 30.

The Politico Bookshelf is one more way the popular news site is testing the waters of publishing, and more importantly, boosting its brand, media watchers say.

“Throughout this year, the D.C.-focused publication has tried to use its growing readership and the upcoming election to boost its brand, whether by co-hosting a GOP candidates debate or furthering its events business,” writes Reuters. “Politico clearly sees this as another opportunity to establish itself as a heavyweight in political journalism.”

As for us, we consider Politico Bookshelf a new kind of BYO-café-drink and find-your-own-couch book-browsing opportunity.

Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.

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