Barack Obama breaks a first-day sales record for a presidential memoir, with nearly 890,000 copies purchased

By John L. Dorman

Former president Barack Obama's new memoir, "A Promised Land," has sold nearly 890,000 copies in its first day, putting the book on track to shatter sales records for a presidential memoir, according to the Associated Press.

The 768-page memoir, the first of two volumes, set a first-day sales record for Penguin Random House. Audiobooks, e-books, and pre-orders are included in the sales numbers.

"We are thrilled with the first day sales," David Drake, publisher of the Penguin Random House imprint Crown, said in a statement. "They reflect the widespread excitement that readers have for President Obama's highly anticipated and extraordinarily written book."

In 2018, former first lady Michelle Obama released her memoir, "Becoming," which sold 725,000 copies in its first day and more than 1.4 million copies in its first week. It has sold over 10 million copies since its release.

Former president Bill Clinton's memoir, "My Life," sold roughly 400,000 copies on its first day when it was released in 2004, while former president George W. Bush's "Decision Points" sold about 220,000 copies on its first day in 2010.

In "A Promised Land," Obama, the first Black president in US history, details the first two-and-a-half years of his historic presidency. The former president served in office for two terms, from 2009 to 2017.

The memoir was released in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election, where Obama's former vice president, President-elect Joe Biden, defeated President Donald Trump. The timing is a potential boon for long-term interest in Obama's memoir as Biden builds his administration, which will likely include an array of Obama-era alumni in prominent roles.

With a cover price of $45, many independent bookstores, which have been hurt by the coronavirus pandemic, also see the memoir as a financial lifeline as they enter the holiday season.

"It's not hard to be a bright spot this year, a year when we would have gone out of business without federal aid," Sarah McNally, owner of McNally Jackson Books in Manhattan, said to the Associated Press. "But Obama does feel like a savior, as do our customers for buying this from us."