Little, Brown To Release J.D. Salinger E-books

From Publishers Weekly:

Little, Brown, in conjunction with the estate of J.D. Salinger, announced plans to release e-book editions of Salinger’s four beloved works of fiction, marking the first time his books have been available in a digital format.

The release of the four books—The Catcher in the Rye, Nine Stories, Franny and Zooey, and Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour—An Introduction—in e-book editions (with new cover designs) marks a continuing year-long centennial celebration of Salinger’s acclaimed works of fiction.

. . . .

Reagan Arthur, senior v-p, publisher of Little, Brown. said “This centennial year is an occasion for revisiting J. D. Salinger’s books as well as for approaching them for the first time. So it’s the ideal moment to be publishing his works as e-books.

The release of the e-books will be accompanied by a special focus on libraries and will include a 1,000 e-book giveaway sweepstakes to public libraries in North America organized by OverDrive.

. . . .

Salinger, who died in 2010, rejected digital editions of his work while he was alive. Since his death, Matt Salinger, the author’s son and administrator of the Salinger estate, has continued to carry out his father’s wishes. However, Salinger said the time has come to make sure his father’s books are available to a new generation of readers.

Salinger said “There were few things my father loved more than the full tactile experience of reading a printed book, but he may have loved his readers more—and not just the ‘ideal private reader’ he wrote about, but all his readers. As it became clear to us that increasing numbers of readers today read only e-books, and after I was taken severely (if also humorously) to task by a reader with a disability in Ypsilanti, Michigan, who can’t read except on an electronic device, we decided it was time.”

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

PG is 99% certain that the publishing agreements J.D. Salinger signed would not have included ebooks and likely had a reservation of rights clause that provided that all rights not granted to the publisher were reserved to the author.

The publisher paid Salinger’s heirs a tidy sum and they signed either an updated publishing contract or an amendment to the original contracts to permit the publication of ebooks.


11 thoughts on “Little, Brown To Release J.D. Salinger E-books”

  1. It is quite incredible to me that they are only now releasing these works as e-books! Yes, I know the difficulties with rights and the very many other problems which delay or even stop such releases.

    In the meantime, I sat down at the computer and did a little searching. It took less than 5 minutes to find out that at least 3 of these books are available for download as e-books in various formats. Which must, of course, be pirate versions. I didn’t download them to check, but I would be quite surprised if at least some of them did not reproduce the actual work.

    Of course they do infringe copyright, but authors, publishers and even heirs are risking the loss of sales. In the case of Catcher in the Rye and other classics, I suspect such losses may be substantial. Logically a certain number of readers who normally shun pirate copies lose such sensibilities when the work is not available as an e-book at all.

    I am not at all intending to promote or excuse such piracy. Simply pointing out a fact that rights-holders should be very aware of. Anecdotally some Harry Potter fans combined to type a complete e-book version of one of the books in the absence of an official e-book version. Scanning technology is improving constantly.

    I think the message for rights-holders of works with no official e-book version is that they should release one as soon as possible. Most readers tend to shun pirate copies in favour of even over-priced official versions. The minority who want to obtain pirate copies will do so regardless. Meanwhile there are may sales out there going begging.

    • Try this:

      Pirating an ebook the old fashioned, Scan-and-OCR, is hard work. It takes strong motivation, usually in the form of lack of availability.

      Top priority as the post above points out is hard to find pbooks. Then overly-expensive DRM’ed titles. Lowest priority are DRM-free, low priced ebooks. In another interview from the period, another pirate put it best: BAEN ebooks are DRM-free, available in every format, and priced chdzper than tbe paperback. Why pirate them? They’re the good guys. “Just buy the thing, cheapskate.”

      The Harry Potterbooks were notorious targets not only because they were popular and unavailable, but also because Rowling bad mouthed digital and refused to allow ebooks. The result? Groups of pirates would coordinate, with “contributors” buying copies in the UK, midnight release day, and each would scan one chapter and manually proof it. The ebook would hit the US before storrs opened.

      One legendary effort had the entire series released as “dot-by-dot” pdfs, reproducing the print book pages *exactly*, graphics, font, and formatting. Except they fixed the typos.
      It came with a Read-me file: “If you don’t want my money…”

      To many, those attempts to slow down technology adoption were seen as a challenge and an invitation. It led to a lot of discussion on ebook (not file) forums on USENET. All about ethics.

      Haven’t been on those for years but I imagine the days of SCAN-and-OCR talk are mostly done. DRM discussions and reviews all the way now.

      • Excellent comments. The article is of course from a vastly different time but there is much that is still of relevance. I agree that scan and ocr is all but dead these days, though I suspect still in use for some books not available as e-books. The point is, of course, that scan and ocr remains available and I suspect will see a resurgence if DRM cannot be circumvented for a time and e-books remain at prices comparable to print books. The technology is better than ever. Products like the Czur scanner, for instance, have the potential to bring easy scanning and ocr to the masses.

        As I’ve said in the past, if some of the really alarmist propaganda about piracy was true, how do we continue to have a thriving retail market for books? Some level of piracy is a fact of life in the publishing industry, but fortunately most readers do not engage in it. Even some of those who do anecdotally are still some of publishers best customers, as was the pirate interviewed in the article. It seems piracy will remain at a level which still permits the industry to thrive, except for really stupid decisions, of which not making an official e-book available at all is one of the worst. One-click type convenience, universal availability and reasonable prices will go a long way to keeping a sustainable and profitable industry.

        • Yes, the analog hole is always a resort but the “price” is high. Availability is pretty much the last driver.

          The real danger of high ebook prices driving folks to piracy isn’t scan-and-ocr but driving them to piracy in the first place. Because once people realize how easy it is, the shoulder battle between the homunculi is going to tilt strongly to the red one. 😀

          Try this really silly bit of self-promotion from 2011:

          “Look at me! I’m big enough to be pirated!”

          Right. And while you’re at it, tell millions how to get the torrent by publishing it’s *exact file name* at a time Google still searched for and returned torrents, legal or otherwise.

          Between guys like this and the outfits selling piracy-panic to make money it’s hard to take all the handwringing seriously.

          Yes it happens, but US$ billions in damages?

      • Felix, scan-and-ocr is not really that hard work. When I was making my late mother in law’s favourite books accessible I found it took about 20 hours to do a 350 page paperback using the old scanner I got to digitize my photos and the free OCR software that came with it. This included a significant amount of time doing a very careful proofing.

        This is basically what organisations like Project Gutenberg and Faded Page are doing on a regular basis.

        For unbreakable DRM I assume that the process will be (already is?) to automate taking a partial screen print of the reading app, turning the page and repeating to the end of the book before feeding to OCR. A lot easier than doing it page by page on a flat bed scanner.

        As usual questions of ethics and legality arise but a money motivated pirate won’t be concerned about this. I have no problems with making an ebook out of something I already own or if it is out of print but my ethics require me to refrain from releasing any ebook I make into the wild and to buy a copy if a legitimate version is ever released (though I might stumble over trad pub prices).

        • Right.
          And what’s the value of 20 hours of proofreading? The US minimum wage is $7.25 per hour so we’re talking north of US$145.00 worth of labor.Plus the price of the pbook.
          (Your inlaw should’ve at least baked you a cake.)

          Today that’s over a year’s worth of Kindle Unlimited. It was a different time but I still think it takes a big incentive to get somebody to take that road just to save a couple of bucks.

          Unless there really is no alternative.
          And even at BPH price ebooks add up to well over a sixth of their market. And north of 25% for other tradpubs.

          There is simply no reason not to do ebooks.

          • I wondered if someone would talk about the cost of my time. Your labour cost estimate is way too low, my rate for paid work is much higher (and still would be if I actually wanted work).

            The monetary cost is irrelevant when the aim is to improve the life of an old lady with failing eyesight. The only real cost is the opportunity one: I could have been sitting in the garden daydreaming, watching a crap movie or TV show (Sturgeon’s Law) or reducing my immense TBR pile. As it was I had a fun project and discovered how to produce an acceptable ebook with a minimal number of Word styles.

            And paying for KU would have a real effect on my bank balance and cannot be justified when I already own more books than I’ll ever manage to read.

            • That’s weird. I edited the comment to add a bracket before Sturgeon and to add a paragraph about KU (basically KU would be a real charge on my bank account and little value as I own more books than I can read in the rest of my life without adding the millions on KU).

              I saved the edits, and everything looked fine on screen after I pressed save, but now the edits are gone. Another reason for a new PV theme?

              • I see both mods in the original.

                And I went with minimum wage, intentionally.
                Techie wages easily run $50-plus, but not all pirates are techies. If any. 😉

                Definitely worth a cake.

  2. >PG is 99% certain that the publishing agreements J.D. Salinger signed would not have included ebooks

    Great point, PG. And the ebook world prior to his death in 2010 was a completely different animal.

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