Pioneering Publisher Breaks New Ground with Blog-Driven Books on Foreign Affairs

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Just World Books, an agile start-up imprint publishing timely books on foreign affairs, today launched its website http://www.justworldbooks.com. The new imprint will publish its first title, "America’s Misadventures in the Middle East" by Ambassador Chas W. Freeman, Jr., in early October and three additional titles—on U.S. policy in Afghanistan and Iraq, and on the situation of Gaza—over before Thanksgiving.

Just World Books’s goal of publishing “Timely Books for Changing Times” is one of which, longtime Christian Science Monitor columnist Helena Cobban notes, prolific writer and foreign-affairs aficionado Thomas Jefferson would surely have approved.

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Just World Books, an agile start-up publisher that has pioneered a new, speedy way to publish timely books on foreign affairs, today launched its website http://www.justworldbooks.com.

The new imprint, based here in Thomas Jefferson’s hometown, will publish its first title, "America’s Misadventures in the Middle East" by Ambassador Chas W. Freeman, Jr., in early October. It will publish three additional titles—on U.S. policy in Afghanistan and Iraq, and on the situation of Gaza—over the following six weeks.

Amb. Freeman’s book is a compilation of his essays—many of them previously unpublished—on U.S. policy in the Middle East from 1990 through 2010. In 1990-91, he was the U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. In March 2009 he became briefly famous when Pres. Obama first invited him to head of the National Intelligence Council, then failed to back him up when strongly pro-Israeli groups attacked the appointment.

The three titles that will follow Freeman’s from the presses of Just World Books in Fall 2010 are all books that bloggers on foreign affairs have “self-curated” from among their own best previous oeuvre.

Just World Books’s stated goal is to publish “Timely Books for Changing Times.” Owner Helena Cobban, who for 17 years wrote a regular column on global affairs for "The Christian Science Monitor", explained that the company’s innovative business model allows it to bring out books on topics of urgent concern with a much shorter turnaround time than most traditional publishers.

“We are working with excellent authors whom I know to be smart and disciplined writers,” she said. “I have a great team of editors, and between us, working on a ‘batch-editing’ system in close collaboration with the authors, we can bring their books out in great shape in less than three months. The public discourse here in the U.S.—and worldwide—desperately needs to have access to the work of these writers.”

While the appearance of the company’s first title is still three weeks away, Ms. Cobban hopes the new website can start to build awareness of (and excitement around) all the books on the Fall 2010 list. The website contains more information about the upcoming books, podcasts of interviews with the authors, and some of Ms. Cobban’s own reflections about e-publishing and other developments in the book-publishing business.

The first author podcast is an interview with accomplished Palestinian journalist Laila El-Haddad, whose book "Gaza Mom: Palestine, Politics, Parenting, and Everything In Between" will come out in late October. Ms. Cobban recorded the interview over her Skype-phone with Ms. El-Haddad, who has been finishing her work on the book while living in her native Gaza with her children over the summer.

The imprint’s other two titles for Fall 2010 are "Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net" by Afghan-affairs specialist and blogger Joshua Foust, and "A Responsible End? The United States and Iraq, 2005-2010" by Reidar Visser. Dr. Visser is Norwegian—but Ms. Cobban describes him as “probably the English-speaking world’s best analyst of internal Iraqi politics.”

Ms. Cobban notes that a big part of the new imprint’s business model is based on a method she has pioneered whereby analysts like Ms. El-Haddad, Mr. Foust, and Dr. Visser who already have a sizeable blogged oeuvre can “self-curate” their own best blogged and other work into books that, with the addition of the authors’ introductory or explanatory text, present a narrative to readers that is clear, sustained, and compelling.

“By building their books up in this way from the great, shorter pieces that they already have in their archives, these analysts can publish excellent, very informed books much faster than they could if they had to write them scratch,” she said.

That all contributes to Just World Books’s goal of publishing “Timely Books for Changing Times.” It is also, Ms. Cobban notes, an achievement of which the prolific writer and foreign-affairs aficionado Thomas Jefferson would surely have approved.

Contact: Brooke Heaton, brooke (at) justworldbooks (dot) com, 1-202-630-6322

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