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Biz Book Community Bonds Over 800-CEO-READ

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As Portfolio publisher Adrian Zackheim (right) began his contribution to an impromptu “This Is Your Life” celebration of 800-CEO-READ founder Jack Covert (left) at the launch party for The 100 Best Business Books of All Time Monday night, he remarked on the breadth of the biz-book subculture that had turned out for the event: “It’s nice to see the extended family all in one room,” he said. Almost the entire staff of 8CR had flown in from Milwaukee, most of the Portfolio team was in the room, and we spotted people from Palgrave Macmillan, FT Press, and other houses, plus various agents and freelance publicists…not to mention Seth Godin, who was not only on the all-time list (for his early book Purple Cow) but was also getting a nod for writing Tribes, which 8CR had dubbed the best business book of 2008.

Although the main theme of Monday night’s party was to celebrate the book’s publication, co-author Todd Sattersten, who recently succeeded Covert as the bookstore’s president, took the opportunity to toast his predecessor’s 25-year tenure, going back to 1984, when the company began as an offshoot of Milwaukee-based Dickens Books. “[Jack] got a table, he got a chair, he got a phone, and he got an empty Rolodex,” recalled Carol Grossmeyer—and she wasn’t even sure at first that the punk-rock loving, noir mystery-reading Covert could pull off selling business books to a nationwide executive readership. And yet 8CR flourished, even though, as Godin joked, “At least once a month when I tell people to order a book from 800-CEO-READ, they ask me, ‘What’s the number?’”

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Afterwards, guests browsed through the piles of books that 8CR had selected as 2008′s best in various business sub-categories, as well as getting Sattersten and Covert to sign their copies of 100 Best. Many in the room were enthusiastic about the ripple effect the book could have, noting that only three of the books it cited were currently out of print. “Not only is Jack going to sell business books for his own company,” Zackheim said, “he’s going to be selling them for all booksellers.”

(photos: Kathrine Berger)

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