he mix is the messageSourcebooks was not the first trade publisher to package audio CDs, photos, and text into a mixed-media package the publisher of an instructional guitar manual takes that honor but it certainly has been the most successful.
Sourcebooks' first mixed-media book, We Interrupt This Broadcast by Joe Garner, sold an astonishing 600,000 copies, catapulting it onto the bestseller lists in 1998. A second mix-media book documenting famous events in sports, And the Crowd Goes Wild, also by Joe Garner, has sold over 500,000 copies since it was published last year.
Sourcebooks president Dominique Raccah says her company wasn't caught off guard by the success of We Interrupt This Broadcast (they had invested in a substantial first printing), but they were surprised by the way it zoomed up the bestseller charts. "I think bestsellers always are a surprise," she says. "I would not be cocky enough to admit, or to even really think, that I knew what would stir the public consciousness to gain that type of success."Not surprisingly, Raccah thinks mixed-media books are the wave of the future: "I think it needs to be. I think kids have a very limited attention span not just kids, but readers in general and they require a little more help to get into texts these days. I think audio is a great supplemental way to expose people to the experience [of reading a book]."Two new mixed-media books are due out this year from Sourcebooks: And the Fans Roared, author Joe Garner's third in this series, and The Second City by Sheldon Patinkin.
Garner's book is a follow-up to And the Crowd Goes Wild and focuses on sports events that were overlooked in the first book. Included are text, photos, and sound bites of Mike Tyson's prize fight disqualification for biting Evander Holyfield's ear, Viking Jim Marshall's "wrong way" run against the San Francisco 49ers, and basketball's Larry Bird stealing the ball in the last seconds of a legendary playoff game against the Detroit Pistons.
The Second City marks a departure from other books in the series, for it is about that most elusive of all art forms comedy. Most people will probably recognize the name of the comedy troupe, but those who do not will certainly know the wacky comedy of Second City alumni such as John Belushi, Bill Murray, Mike Myers, Gildna Radner, Martin Short, Chris Farley, and others.
To compile this book, author Patinkin went back over 40 years of taped performances and rehearsals to select the best moments. As a director, teacher, and advisor to the comedy troupe since its inception in the 1950s, Parinkin certainly knew his way around the material. The book's photographs and text compliment audio CDs of the actual comedy in a way that puts the reader in the center of the action. The audio, with the familiar voices of Belushi, Murray, Myers, and company, is hilarious.
"This book is wild," admits Raccah. "It is probably the wildest book I've ever done. It has a real feel to it, a real history . . . it is going to surprise a lot of readers. The audio is really funny and it gives the book a feel that I have never seen in a performing arts book."Reviews or the lack of them are the only thing that concerns the Sourcebooks executive. "We have lots of problems getting these books reviewed. [Reviewers] don't know what to do with mixed media books. We had very few reviews for the first book. The booksellers are hand selling it, God bless them."So, how do you follow a book as funny as The Second City?With some of the best poetry ever written in American, read by some of the country's top poets Sourcebooks' next mixed-media book, due out in fall 2001, will be edited by an advisory panel that includes a current and past poet laureate of the United States. "We've been working on this book for three years," says Raccah, who then adds with a laugh, "It's like producing a movie."James L. Dickerson is the former publisher of Nine-O-One Network magazine and the author of numerous books, including the recently published Dixie Chicks: Down-Home and Backstage.