Book Path


July 14, 2012 – Newton Higsbottom

The E-verse – Rights holders of all kinds, publishers, authors, and even family members, are reissuing books in digital formats to satisfy the desires of a loyal readership and to spark the interest of new ones.  Out-of-print (OP) books and backlist titles are being reincarnated as e-books.

Recently, Vintage Books, an imprint of Random House, Inc., announced that it was issuing Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s as an e-book. Paperback reissues of Capote favorites, including The Grass Harp, Music for Chameleons and In Cold Blood, are also planned.

Twelve, an imprint of Grand Central Publishing, which is a division of Hachette Book Group, re-published three out-of-print books by the late Christopher Hitchens. E-book versions of The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice, No One Left to Lie To: The Triangulations of William Jefferson and The Trial of Henry Kissinger became available, along with paperback reissues, in April.  Hitchens’ Mortality, "a memoir about his illness that is an expansion of his National Magazine Award-winning columns in Vanity Fair," will be out in September.

And Amazon Publishing, through one of its five imprints, Thomas & Mercer, acquired a ten-year license to publish the backlist of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels in paperback and as e-books.  The Fleming family, who owns the rights holding Ian Fleming Publications, wants to cross sell to a younger audience that is familiar with the Bond movies but may not be as much so with the books.

Publishing the backlist, as well as, new works of well-known authors in its Kindle e-reader format has been something Amazon has been actively pursuing.

Pan Macmillan is reissuing 15 titles from the backlist of English conservationist and zookeeper Gerald Durrell through its new digital imprint called Bello.  Other authors’ works to be re-published as Bello imprint e-books are DJ Taylor, Pamela Hansford Johnson, Vita Sackville-West, and Francis Durbridge.

However, as with most endeavors in this digital age, the reissuing of OP books as e-books has its egalitarian side.

In the past, republishing an OP book, except in unusual cases, was very costly.  However reissuing it in e-book format greatly reduces costs. And that just may prove to be a boon for backlists everywhere.

Author Frank Giovinazzi was unwilling to pay the prices of between $30 and $100 that sellers on e-Bay and Amazon were asking for used copies of the OP self-help book How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World by the two-time Libertarian presidential candidate Harry Browne.

Giovinazzi orchestrated, with the permission of Browne’s widow, an e-book reissue.  The Kindle version sells for $7.99. And it may well be that other books by Browne will also be available as e-books soon.

E-book republishing enables unusual content to be offered to niche audiences.

The Guggenheim Museum has made available, as a free download in the EPUB format, selections from the rare catalogue of John Chamberlain: A Retrospective Exhibition catalogue from the historic 1971 exhibition.

In a press release, the Guggenheim notes that "The downloadable excerpts from John Chamberlain: A Retrospective Exhibition are being offered as part of the Guggenheim's ongoing mission to digitize notable, timely, and in-demand works from the museum's publication archives.  Chosen to provide affordable access to out-of-print titles, particularly with students in mind, many of these digitized essays and books—ranging from in-depth examinations of Russian art to an illustrated children's book about the Guggenheim—are already available in the e-book section of the online store."

The out-of-print The Happy Hollisters, a series of books by Jerry West about the sleuthing adventures of the hardware store and toy shop owning Hollister family from the fictional town of Shoreham, were reissued as e-books on behalf of the Hollister Family Properties Trust in 2010.  Not published since 1983, select volumes of the 33 in the series, were republished in trade paperback and in Kindle and NOOK e-book formats.

While new versions, revised editions, and collector’s editions are not new to the publishing world, the relative ease and low cost of revision is certainly adds a new wrinkle to re-publishing.

Iconoclassic Books, a Winnipeg, Canada e-book publisher, has released an updated and expanded e-book version of Neil Young: Don’t Be Denied – The Canadian Years, a biography by music historian and author John Einarson originally published in 1992.  Included in the "new" e-book version are new interviews and rare unseen photos.

With e-book re-publishing, there is the opportunity for unlimited updating and editing. And e-book re-issuers, especially authors, are asking, "When is a book done?"

Should the previously published version be the last word, so to speak?

Or, should authors embrace the freedom that unlimited editing affords and revise away "reissuing" as many versions of their work as they want?

Pricing of art and artistry is difficult in this digital age.  What can be charged for previously published content that is basically, just being delivered in a new format, albeit a highly desired one?

But whether "done is actually done" in this re-publishing in e-book world, it is certain that out of retirement content is transmigrating to that place of electronic formats and out-of-print books have staked out new territory in Kindle Land and Nook Haven, as well as, other digitally created places for the creative.