- The Washington Times - Monday, June 21, 2004

Bookstores across the region are extending hours and stocking up in preparation for a rush of customers eager to buy former President Bill Clinton’s long-anticipated autobiography, “My Life,” which hits shelves today.

The book, which details the life and presidency of Mr. Clinton, has received some poor initial reviews. The New York Times called the memoir “sloppy, self-indulgent and often eye-crossingly dull.”

Regardless, booksellers expect a surge of business this week.

At Borders bookstores in the Washington area, hours were extended last night to serve those who couldn’t wait to get their hands on the book.

“We extended our hours in order to sell it as soon as legally possible,” said Neil James, supervisor at the Friendship Heights location.

Barnes & Noble in Georgetown and Olsson’s Books and Records also had the book available at midnight.

Late-night sales were expected to be intense, even at the smaller bookstores such as Olsson’s.

“I think more [will come] than you would expect to show up at a Courthouse bookstore [in Arlington] at midnight on a Tuesday,” said J.P. Meyer, a manager at Olsson’s.

Booksellers prepared by ordering plenty of copies, advertising a month ahead of the release and setting up store displays.

Anticipation has been enormous. By yesterday afternoon, the book was No. 1 on the Amazon.com best-seller list, even though it was available only for advance orders.

Mr. Clinton also has been making the rounds of TV shows. According to the early overnight ratings, his “60 Minutes” interview Sunday night was watched by 22 percent of the nation’s TV viewers, a figure that grew to a 24 “share” for the second half of the show.

But according to an Associated Press poll taken from Friday to Sunday and released yesterday, the buzz has not helped Mr. Clinton’s reputation.

A majority — 53 percent — of the 1,000 polled adults said they have an unfavorable view of Mr. Clinton, while 41 percent rated him favorably. In January, Americans were about evenly divided in their view of him as a person.

In addition, seven in 10 said Ronald Reagan, who died this month, will be remembered as a better president than Mr. Clinton.

Borders gave incentives for advance sales of Mr. Clinton’s book, offering copies at a 40 percent discount if ordered before June 15. Borders on 14th and F streets NW reported 550 orders by yesterday afternoon.

Preparations for the book were especially hectic at the Barnes & Noble at 12th and E streets NW, which will host the former president for a book signing on July 7.

“We are getting so many calls already; it’s crazy,” said Heather Haines, community relations manager at the downtown store, which planned to begin selling copies of the book at 8 a.m. today.

She said customers have been ordering early so they can be sure to have a copy for the former president to sign.

“With President Clinton coming here to sign the book, it’s a nice incentive,” she said.

Booksellers have seen this kind of excitement before.

“I would say it is the equivalent of a Harry Potter,” Miss Haines said, referring to the enormously popular children’s book series. “It’s generating that level of interest and questions and excitement.”

Stores don’t anticipate running out of the 957-page memoir.

“It’s the type of thing where demand reaches a certain level and we tell people that we will do our best to fill the orders,” Mr. Meyer said. “Everybody knew this book was going to be huge, so most places are trying to overprepare. I think we are going to sell a lot of them.”

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