Cannongate Books has published an unauthorized biography of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange that does to Assange's control over his own history what WikiLeaks does to everyone else.
In December, Cannongate and U.S. publisher Alfred A Knopf announced a contract that would pay Assange $1.3 million for the for U.S. and U.K. rights to a book Assange said even at the time he didn't want to write.
According to Cannongate's own story about the book, Assange signed a contract with it for a book that would be "part memoir, part manifesto," covering both his life and raison d'être of WikiLeaks.
After 50 hours of interviews in stately castle-turned-corporate-meeting-hotel Ellingham Hall, where he was under house arrest, Cannongate thought it had enough for a potential best seller.
After reading a first draft, Assange told Cannongate he thought the book gave too much evidence to prosecutors in the U.S. who were trying to extradite him for trial over publication of secret State Department cables.
It also became too personal due to to "vivid" portrait of Assange as an international man of mystery and his side of the accusations of sexual assault two Swedish women leveled at him last year – accusations he denied, while admitting he had slept with both and been polite to neither.
"The international situation had me in its grip, and although I had spent time with these women, I wasn’t paying enough attention to them, or ringing them back, or able to step out of the zone that came down with all these threats and statements against me in America," according to an excerpt in British newspaper TheIndependent. "One of my mistakes was to expect them to understand this? I wasn’t a reliable boyfriend, or even a very courteous sleeping partner, and this began to figure. Unless, of course, the agenda had been rigged from the start."
He told Cannongate June 7 he wanted to cancel the contract. But the relatively small Scottish publisher had already paid him 500,000 pounds, which he'd had to put in an escrow account to pay his lawyers. He couldn't give the money back.
Cannongate gave him two months to make the changes he wanted to the 244-page book. The deadline passed with no changes and no word from Assange.
Cannongate told him it was going to publish anyway, and gave him 12 days to file an injunction to stop them, but it never came.
Knopf, which was to publish the book in the U.S., has declined to do so, at least for now.
Ghost writer Andrew O'Hagan asked that his name be taken off the book in protest.
Cannongate decided to go ahead anyway, letting British newspaper the Independent publish excerpts to expand sales that already included contracts for publication in 35 countries.
"This book is the unauthorised first draft. It is passionate, provocative and opinionated – like its author. It fulfills the promise of the original proposal and we are proud to publish it."
The electronic book will be available in Kindle format for Kindle or PC beginning tomorrow.
How can the founder of WikiLeaks object? He's probably too weak from irony poisoning to even pick up the phone.
Read more of Kevin Fogarty's CoreIT blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Kevin on Twitter at @KevinFogarty. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.