Making its debut on Lincoln’s birthday next week is an item described by its publisher, Oxford University Press, as "a pocket biography of our 44th President," but–as the photo of it, below left, shows– this paperback wants to says, "See, I’m a hand-held device!" Well, it may not be ahead of the Curve, but it’s slim and efficient and holds a lot of data.
It’s by Steven J. Niven, research editor of the African American National Biography Project, part of Harvard’s W.E.B. DuBois Institute. It tops out at 65 pages, and that encompasses not only the bio, but an intro by Henry Louis Gates Jr., and the full text of Obama’s March 2008 speech on race, now titled "A More Perfect Union." Also acknowledgements and a bibliography.
Partly this is done by the near-exclusion of paragraphing and the merest evidence of margins.
On the other hand (okay, it’s my same hand there again, on the right), Penguin has brought out a "Commemorative Edition" of President Obama’s inaugural address. It’s a hardback of slightly larger dimensions than Oxford’s bio. You’ll wonder at first how Penguin made Obama’s speech weightier than Obama’s life — until you go past the cover and see that they also snuck in Lincoln’s two inaugural addresses, his Gettysburg address, and Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay, "Self-Reliance," for further heft.
For obvious–or shall I say for slender– reasons, neither of these books may be ideal for library collections, but they hold possibilities for library fundraising, as a thank you for donations at a certain basic level, don’t they? Identifying contributors who’ll fund purchase of the books for that purpose should not be too hard.