Simon & Schuster releases smart eBook: ‘Truman Fires MacArthur’


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Fast on the heels of news that President Obama had dismissed Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Simon & Schuster is releasing an eBook that chronicles another high-profile conflict between general and president. The eBook “Truman Fires MacArthur,” a detailed accounting of Harry Truman’s showdown with Gen. Douglas MacArthur, is out today -- just about 48 hours after news of McChrystal’s departure.

And it’s not just any account. “Truman Fires MacArthur” is by acclaimed historian David McCullough; it’s an excerpt from his 1993 biography “Truman,” which won the Pulitzer Prize.


Jonathan Karp, new executive vice president and publisher of Simon & Schuster, said, “This is a perfect example of how a classic work of history can be vitally relevant to the moment.” Indeed. And it bodes well for Karp, who has been at Simon & Schuster for less than two weeks.

The swift release of “Truman Fires MacArthur” -- a gem culled from the publisher’s backlist -- is an example of how publishers can be smart about eBooks. While people are thinking about conflicts between generals and presidents, interest is bound to spark for the Truman-MacArthur story. But curious readers aren’t likely to find the acclaimed 17-year-old biography sitting on bookstore shelves. The easiest way to get the story -- you know, a more detailed and vetted version than the one that appears on Wikipedia -- will now be to purchase the stand-alone eBook from, Apple’s iBookstore and other online retailers.

In 1993, McCullough wrote an article for the L.A. Times about the travails presidents face. “What saw Truman through the storm of abuse over the MacArthur firing was, above all, his faith that the country and history would, in the long run, judge him to have done the right thing.”

Harry Truman was fond of saying, “The only new thing in the world is the history you don’t know.” Will Simon & Schuster’s exercise in revived history reach readers who are curious to learn more?

-- Carolyn Kellogg

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