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Martin Luther King Project to produce digital products as well as books

An unusual autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr. and a digital version of the Martin Luther King Jr. Papers, edited by history Professor Clayborne Carson, were among the projects announced Wednesday, Jan. 8, by Time Warner Inc. and the manager of King's estate.

The partnership between the major publisher and the Atlanta-based firm that handles King's estate for his family calls for publishing several books, a CD-ROM and a World Wide Web page on the civil rights leader, along with other multimedia products. King's five previously published books also will be re-issued, and his widow, Coretta Scott King, and son, Dexter King, will also write books. Laurence J. Kirshbaum, chairman of Time Warner Trade Publishing and the chief executive of Warner Books, said the company would share profits with the King estate and is committed to spending more than $5 million on the project over two years, according to the New York Times.

Carson, the editor of the Martin Luther King Jr. Papers Project, which is based at Stanford and the King Center for Non-Violent Social Change in Atlanta, has been asked to assemble an autobiography of King from the project's vast body of materials. The book would be in addition to the more scholarly, 14-volume edition of King's papers being published by University of California Press. The third volume of that series was recently published.

The autobiography will contain "carefully edited and arranged excerpts drawn from Dr. King's correspondence, unpublished manuscripts, recorded comments and published writings," Time Warner said in a press release, and will be "the closest possible approximation to the memoir that Dr. King undoubtedly would have written if his life had not been cut short by assassination." It is scheduled for publication in the fall of 1998 and will be a selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club, Time Warner said.

In 1988, Carson said he hoped to create a multimedia version of the King Papers. He said the project was the first large-scale history project to use computers at every stage of the research process, from taking notes to publication. "King is the first public leader who exploited all of the potential of the modern mass media," Carson said. "We have film clips of him delivering sermons, talking with a small crowd, even audio tape recordings of staff meetings. Because of these we are able to get access to a lot more of his personality than would be the case for most historical figures."

Details are to be worked out, but Time Warner said a CD-ROM on King would include his complete speeches to meet a growing demand for his works in this form.


By Kathleen O'Toole