Travis McGee coming to Kindle in January 2013
In the early days of the Kindle, I used to talk a lot about the books that were, as I called it, “in the well”.
Those are books that were first published in the USA after 1922 and before about 2005.
If a book was first published in the USA prior to 1923, it is in the public domain in that country. That means that they belong to the public: anyone can publish them without having to pay royalties to the rightsholder…because the public is the rightsholder.
If somebody gets a copy of a book first published in the USA prior to 1923, they can digitize and sell it. Amazon no longer allows you to just do that with books that are freely available on the internet…you have to add some kind of new content.
Still, many well-known books from that time period are available for the Kindle…often for free.
For books published from 1923 to about 2004, the e-book rights were not commonly negotiated (since the market for e-books was much smaller prior to the Kindle, but also prior to Sony’s EBR…E-Book Reader). A publisher has to pay to license rights, and if there doesn’t appear to be a market, that doesn’t make much sense.
By 2005, I think it was becoming apparent (even though the Sony PRS-500 was a year away) that it was worth licensing those rights.
It was sort of an inverted bell curve as to which books were being made available…and that deep part (from 1923 to 2004) was what I called the well.
It’s not always easy to get books out of the well. It requires a new negotiation with the rightsholder (which could be the author or the author’s estate), and the latter aren’t always in good shape to enter into negotiations..especially if the estate is disputed.
In the beginning, one of Amazon’s stated goals for the Kindle was to have “every book ever published”.
Let’s say that was a bit…ambitious.
People immediately began to look for what’s called the “long tail”. Not the front list, recently published books, but the “backlist”…books that have been out for a while.
Publishers want that, too. There are initial development costs, and relatively high introductory marketing costs. Once those are recouped, then the book can start making the publisher some profit.
There were a lot of series on the list of books people wanted…particularly mystery series. They often didn’t understand why, say, Perry Mason wasn’t in the Kindle store. I think a lot of people assume that any book first published before they were born is in the public domain.
So, I was happy to see it today when Ellis Golub posted in this
that the Travis McGee books have been announced by Random House for January 2013 (I may not get them all listed before publishing this post, but I do think they are doing the original twenty-one):
- The Deep Blue Good-by: A Travis McGee Novel #1
- Nightmare in Pink: A Travis McGee Novel #2
- A Purple Place for Dying: A Travis McGee Novel #3
- A Deadly Shade of Gold: A Travis McGee Novel #5
- Bright Orange for the Shroud: A Travis McGee Novel #6
- Darker Than Amber: A Travis McGee Novel #7
- The Dreadful Lemon Sky: A Travis McGee Novel #16
- Cinnamon Skin: A Travis McGee Novel #20
Travis McGee is an important series. A self-deprecating “salvage consultant” who lives on a houseboat in Florida, you can see echoes of John D. McDonald’s character in Jim Rockford, Simon & Simon…even Miami Vice.
As you can tell from the above list, each of the books had a color in the title.
If you haven’t read them before, I think you may enjoy them. Certainly, even though they won’t be published until January Eighth, these could be good presents.
Here’s the search at Amazon (I cut out the Audible audiobooks for you):
I’ve also noticed that Lee Child is doing at least some introductions for the books.
One last note: some of you will be surprised by some of the prices…it looked to me like they ranged from $7.99 to $11.99.
You may even be able to buy the paperback for less than the Kindle book…but that’s because Random House is still using the Agency Model, meaning that Amazon can discount the paperbook but not the e-book.
I checked one of the $11.99 Kindle store editions…the paper list price (set by the publisher) is $16.00…it’s just that Amazon is discounting it to $10.88 (in the USA…prices may be different in other countries).
Random House is not part of the Department of Justice’s action against the Agency Model publishers, so it isn’t one of the settling publishers (there is nothing to settle). That action is not exactly against the Agency Model: it’s against collusion, and Random House didn’t join when everybody else did.
Could Random House drop the Agency Model voluntarily, meaning Amazon would discount these? Maybe…but they may wait until the non-settling publishers have fought it out in court, and that wouldn’t happen before January 2013, I think.
If the price seems too high to you, you can list them at
They’ll send you an e-mail when the book drops an amount you specify. There is no charge for that…if you buy it through their link, they presumably get an advertising fee from Amazon.
What do you think? Are you already a Travis McGee fan? Do you wish I hadn’t mentioned Miami Vice in the same breath? What other “long tail” series would you like to see? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.