Thursday, July 06, 2006

Coulter plargiarism dispute escalates

The controversy surrounding Ann Coulter's latest bestseller continues to escalate. Last week the NY Post quoted John Barrie, creator of the iThenticate plagiarism-probing system, as claiming that parts of Coulter's Godless as well as several of her syndicated columns were not her own. Now Editor & Publisher reports that her syndicate, Universal Press syndicate, has asked Barrie for the evidence upon which he's basing his claims. Meanwhile, Coulter is hitting back at the Post's credibility.

It's still too early to know what will come of this, but I hope there's no truth to the charges -- both for her sake as well as the publishing industry's.

Coulter is good for publishing. Nielsen BookScan has clocked 171,000 sales for Godless, and given Nielsen's systematic undercounting I'd guess the true number is closer to 225,000 to 250,000. In a tough industry with few growth segments, Coulter is a star and one of the few authors who can bring people into bookstores looking for her latest. Her books make news and influence the rest of the media.

Publishing needs that. What it doesn't need is another scandal like the "memoir" promoted by Oprah's book club or that Harvard student's chic lit rip-off.

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