Leslie Paige, a spokeswoman for Citizens Against Government Waste, a watchdog group, said if the federal government is looking to cut costs, eliminating purchases of Mr. Obama’s books is a good place to start.

“It’s inappropriate for U.S. taxpayer dollars to be spent on this,” she said. “This sounds like propaganda.”…

There’s no indication the White House knew about the purchases, which overall represent just a fraction of the nearly quarter-million dollars Mr. Obama donated to charities last year and his more than $1.7 million in overall income. Mr. Clay said book orders are normally made directly by embassies based on “their experience and knowledge on the ground of the intended audience.”