By Melinda Deslatte, Natalie Hopkinson and Maria Burnham
ANNAPOLIS Publishers hoped that former White House intern and presidential paramour Monica Lewinsky’s chat with Barbara Walters Wednesday night would send readers running to the bookstores, but “Monica’s Story” brought out more venom than buyers in Maryland Thursday.
Bookstores began selling the new Lewinsky biography Thursday morning. But the 288-page book, written by Andrew Morton, the late Princess Diana’s biographer, hasn’t managed to entice readers. Buyers boycotted the biography, citing boredom and disgust with the intern.
“One guy came in here and said, `If I had a lot of money, I’d buy all of them and burn them,'” said Tony Bellante, buyer for the Annapolis Barnes & Noble Booksellers.
Readers at bookstores in Annapolis, Rockville and Frederick told the same tale. They’ve seen enough of the story of intimacy between the president and the intern in the news.
“If I’m going to buy a book, it’ll be something worth reading,” said Lori Yadin, merchandising manager of Borders Books and Music in Rockville. “We’ve had a few people ask about the book with the caveat that they want to look at it, not buy it.”
Other book lovers were so repulsed by the whole affair that they couldn’t bear to look at the new hardcover or were embarrassed to explain their interest.
“I think she’s disgusting,” said Crofton resident Cindy Petrauskas, as she pushed her baby in a stroller through Barnes & Noble Booksellers in Annapolis. “I’d never read anything she ever wrote. She’s about as disgusting as (President Clinton) is.”
Some consumers avoided the book as a moral statement.
“I’m not interested in financially supporting what she’s done,” said Craig Distelhorst of Annapolis. “I don’t approve of it.”
Internet shoppers weren’t so discriminating, however. The book is the No. 1 bestseller on Amazon.com. It’s No. 2 on the Internet bookseller’s United Kingdom site.
People may be buying from websites because they are ashamed, bookstore customers said.
“Maybe the publisher should have put the book in a brown paper wrapper for people,” said Andy Doyle, a 32-year- old Kensington resident browsing at Barnes & Noble Booksellers in Rockville.
As customers arrived at the top of the escalator entering the Borders at White Flint Mall, they were greeted with a prominent display of the new book. Barnes & Noble’s display was smaller and less obvious.
Many passersby in the various bookstores stopped to look at the photo sections in the center. Even employees at the checkout counter skimmed the pages, but only a few people purchased the book , according to salespeople.
“I wanted to see if there was anything more than there was on television last night,” said Z. Dzenitis, a 47-year- old resident of Silver Spring who was checking out the book on the display rack.
After watching the Walters interview on ABC, Dzenitis said she was intrigued but had no intention of purchasing the book.
“I like Monica,” she said. “She seems like a really decent person. That’s why I was curious.”
Borders in Rockville received 140 copies of the hardcover book at 11 a.m. Thursday. Yadin joked with employees, saying, “Here it is. Maybe we should have flashing lights above it.”
The books were modestly scattered throughout the two- story store, including a group of five or six at the feet of a cardboard cutout of John Travolta, who played the lead role in the movie “Primary Colors.” The movie told the story of a man battling rumors of infidelity in his campaign to become president.
In Frederick, “Monica’s Story” was displayed in the front of Borders. The store only received 20 copies of the book Thursday morning, according to Meredith Welty, lead clerk for the store. Employees arranged the new books with other tales of the presidency in crisis.
The slow sales could be explained, Welty said, by timing.
“People haven’t had a chance to get out and buy the book, yet,” she said.
Although Barnes & Noble forbids employees from speaking to the press, one sales representative said the Rockville location received a large number of copies but hadn’t sold many yet.
“The press is showing more of an interest than the customers are,” he said.
Booksellers aren’t giving up hope of making money from their investment, though.
“We think if it’s going to sell, it’s going to sell over the weekend, and then it will fizzle out,” Yadin said. “It’s really too soon to tell if it’s going to fly off the shelves.”
Some buyers plan to wait it out and buy the book at a discount.
“It’ll be in the dollar stand before too long,” said Gary Gindlesperger, a 41-year-old Germantown resident looking at the Lewinsky display in Barnes & Noble. “I’ll get it then, if I buy it at all.”