PHYSICS PROBLEM Stephen Hawking has two mind-bending disquisitions on the universe hitting bookstores this spring. Catch is, one of them — titled The Theory of Everything — has been published before. And Hawking wants nothing to do with it. ”I very much want to stop publication of the proposed new book, based upon the late 1980’s lecture series I gave at Cambridge,” the renowned physicist wrote his editor at Bantam (the publisher of his other new book, The Universe in a Nutshell). Michael Viner, the publisher of New Millennium Press, has drawn Theory from the audiobook The Cambridge Lectures, which he produced for Dove Audio. But Hawking argues that Viner has only the audio rights, not the book rights, to the lectures. The dispute goes back at least to the mid-’90s, when Dove published a hardcover version, The Cambridge Lectures: Life Works, of the tapes. ”There was litigation, and it resolved with a settlement…that we felt made clear that Viner couldn’t publish a book,” says Robert Dudnik, Hawking’s lawyer. Dudnik, charging that Theory is ”a fraud on the public,” has just filed a complaint against New Millennium with the Federal Trade Commission. In turn, Viner says that the agreement not to republish the earlier book referred only to that edition, which was ”unattractive.” Given that this tangle seems more complex than quantum physics, it’s only natural that, as Hawking’s agent, Albert Zuckerman, says, he’s ”irate about the whole thing.”
CHART CLIMBER She may not be Oprah, but Kelly Ripa — cohost of Live With Regis and Kelly — is earning a standing O from publishers. The sophomore pick of her Reading With Ripa book club — Adele Lang’s chick-lit number, Confessions of a Sociopathic Social Climber — shot to No. 1 on Amazon, with St. Martin’s adding 135,000 copies to its initial 10,000-copy printing. Meanwhile, Ripa’s first choice, Kate White’s murder-and-magazines thriller, If Looks Could Kill, is at No. 10 on the New York Times best-seller list.