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July 10, 2015, 10:43 a.m.
Reporting & Production
LINK: www.theguardian.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Laura Hazard Owen   |   July 10, 2015

If you’d like to read the first chapter of Harper Lee’s controversially long-lost novel, Go Set a Watchman, you have a few choices this morning: You could head over to The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, or The Sydney Morning Herald and other Fairfax-owned Australian newspapers.

The book will be published July 14; in the meantime, the sites are left trying to attract the most visitors to the same content.

Go Set a Watchman will be published by the News Corp-owned HarperCollins in the U.S., which is why the Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal has the excerpt here. In the U.K. and other English-language territories, the book will be published by Penguin Random House UK. Different publication territories means publishers can sell different first serial rights to the same content.

Each site also has the same audio: the chapter read by Reese Witherspoon. From there, it’s up to them to add the trimmings. The Guardian does it best: The chapter begins on a train, and you can listen to ambient sound of the train running over the tracks as you read and see gentle animations of the landscape passing by outside the train window.

The Wall Street Journal illustrates the excerpt with black-and-white photos and links to a whole lot of previous coverage. The Sydney Morning Herald has a quiz about how well you know To Kill a Mockingbird, since a quiz about how well you know the first chapter of Go Set a Watchman might be a little much.

Both The Guardian and The Sydney Morning Herald also have reviews of the first chapter — as does The Telegraph, whose reviewer must have read the chapter on one of the other sites, though they don’t say which one.

And then, of course, there are so, so many places to discuss the chapter: Facebook groups, Twitter groups, on-site comments, and an actual live blog at The Guardian, including people’s negative Twitter reactions to said live blog.

HarperCollins has printed more than two million copies of the book in the U.S. — full-length books, meaning that the sites running the first chapter don’t have that long to hold readers’ attention before there’s a much better option. No wonder they’re trying to milk it while they can, though it’s not clear how much readers care when they know they are going to be able to read the entire book in four days. The title was the #1 book on Amazon — among all books, not just among pre-orders — on Friday morning.

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