After Whitney Houston’s Death, an e-Book Onslaught

After her fans complained about a sudden price increase on one of her recordings in the hours after her death, Sony (NYSE:SNE) became the most famous music publisher accused of exploiting Whitney Houston’s sad end.

But it turns out some amateurs in the book publishing world have been trying to cash in.

A few enterprising authors managed to crank out and publish Kindle e-books about the 48-year-old pop music singer, who was found dead in a Los Angeles hotel room a day before the 2012 Grammy Awards. Six new titles appeared on Amazon’s (NASDAQ:AMZN) website within a day of Houston’s death, including two books released on Feb. 11, the day she was found dead in a bathtub. So far, at least eight Kindle e-books on Amazon’s website bear Houston’s name or image. They range in price from 99 cents to $14.97.

One offering is a book of poems about Houston. Another book claims to give readers an inside look into her final days. There’s also a 10-page book on handwriting analysis that compares Houston’s signature to those of other celebrities who suffered untimely deaths.

The likelihood that these e-books will generate much revenue for the authors is slim, since it’s doubtful the books provide any information that can’t easily be found elsewhere for free. But the quick-strike phenomenon underscores a key point: considering the cost to publish and distribute electronic books versus hardcover or paperback editions, it wouldn’t take much for these instant authors to make a profit on whatever they sell. Consider, for example, “Whitney Houston (The Life and Death of Whitney Houston),” by Kindle author Kiki D. The “unofficial, unauthorized” e-book biography was #71 on Amazon’s top 100 Bestseller list Wednesday afternoon. Not bad for a title that appeared out of nowhere from an unknown author.

Some of these e-authors may simply have wanted to honor Houston with their publications. However, many users of Amazon’s self-publishing tools and Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) new iBooks Author program for formatting manuscripts for the iBooks store will likely be focused on financial gain. If nothing else, the Whitney Houston e-books confirm that possibility will at least be in play when celebrities die.

Houston fans may have to wait for a well-written and accurate account of her life, whose triumphs and tragedies have already been heavily chronicled by mainstream media and by the tabloid press. That book very well could reach a huge market as both an e-book and traditional hardcover release. In the end, though, Amazon and Apple likely will be the biggest winners in the self-publishing game.

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