If you’re someone who is “into” books (by which I mean you’re someone who reads more than just when trying to kill time on an airplane, and/or you freakishly obsess over where you can possibly put more bookshelves in your tiny apartment), you’re probably familiar with Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy.
As you might recall (or more probably, might not), after finishing The Girl Who Played With Fire, I was too impatient to wait for May for the sequel, so I went to Amazon’s UK site and ordered it from England when it was published in October.
Knopf obtained the rights to the books after Larsson’s death in 2004. At the time, he was unknown in the U.S., so the publishing company’s first priority was to introduce him to the public. At that point, they didn’t think about the need for a simultaneous release of the books in different countries. They just wanted time to build interest with the release of each book. They had no idea that avid fans would be so eager to get their hands on The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.
As John Gomperts, one of those fans, puts it, “Once you know you can have it, once you know it exists in English and you can buy it, it would be crazy not to.”
After a friend told him the book would be available in Britain long before its U.S. release date, Gomperts didn’t waste any time.
“She said, ‘Well you know you can just go to [Amazon.co.uk] and buy it.’ And, in fact, she said, ‘I’ve already been there, it’s coming out on Oct. 8.’ As it turned out , it was released on Oct. 1,” says Gomperts. “I had it and had already read it by Oct. 8.”
All this online book-buying did not escape the attention of book sellers, like David Thompson of Murder By the Book mystery bookstore in Houston. Thompson says the store wanted to honor the U.S. release date, but it kept getting harder and harder.
“We had gotten several very loyal customers who just absolutely needed the third book because the second one ends with such a cliffhanger you really, really want to read that third one right away,” Thompson says. “And so we felt that it was really important to serve our customers and import these books that there was a desperate demand for.”
Eventually Knopf found out that Thompson’s store and others were importing copies of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest and selling them to their customers. Knopf asked the booksellers to stop the practice, because says Bogaards, “it’s a violation of copyright law.”
But even online booksellers like Amazon.com are supposed to honor the U.S. release dates, which Bogaards says consumers may not know.
And if the much speculated-over fourth book in Larsson’s series surfaces? What then? Bogaards answers with a careful chuckle.
“If there is a fourth book — and we know that there are 200 pages of a fourth book somewhere — I can assure you that we will consider, if we ever have the opportunity to publish it, we will consider publishing it simultaneously with our U.K. partner.”
I didn’t know that many people had ordered it from overseas! Now I feel less original.
Also: I’ve heard so many good things about the film adaption of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo that I intend to do my best to get to a screening sometime before the end of next week. E-Street! Violence! Girls with Tattoos!