To Kill a Mockingbird going legally e July 8
Update: now available for pre-order!
This is such exciting news!
Ever since the Kindle was released in 2007 (and honestly, before), readers have wanted to experience To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (at AmazonSmile: benefiti a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) as an e-book.
For many of us, it’s just because that’s the way we read books now. It’s not necessarily about the e-book bringing us something different: it’s that we want TKaM in our libraries, and our libraries are now digital.
For others, e-books bring an accessibility that p-books (paperbooks) do not. It might be because of the increasable font size, or physical difficulty with holding a paperbook, or just the inability to store a large number of p-books.
It won’t surprise me if this becomes one of the top 100 e-book bestsellers of the year.
As I’m writing this, it can’t yet be pre-ordered for its July 8th release date…either through Amazon or at the HarperCollins website.
When you can, though, I’ll link to it…assuming they don’t block text-to-speech access, which I think is very unlikely with this book.
Shockingly, according to this
Harper Lee herself made a statement about it.
One narrative has been that Harper Lee regretted that the book was out there at all, and that people just didn’t want to approach her about making the book even more widely available.
The statement suggests that’s not the case.
The author is quoted in the article as saying:
“I’m still old-fashioned. I love dusty old books and libraries,” Lee, who turned 88 on Monday, said through her publisher. “I am amazed and humbled that Mockingbird has survived this long. This is Mockingbird for a new generation.”
In the past, when that new generation searched for To Kill a Mockingbird e-books, they either found analyses/study guides of/for the book (and there are many in the Kindle store), or pirated copies (ones produced without legal authorization).
list, where you can sign up to be notified when a book has been Kindleized, To Kill a Mockingbird is (and has been) number one.
The top ten there?
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
- The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
- The Great Book of Amber by Roger Zelazny
- To Kill a Mockingbird (50th Anniversary Edition)
- Mary Stewart’s Merlin trilogy
- Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast by Robin McKinley
- The Far Pavilions by M.M. Kaye
- A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.
- Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey
Why aren’t all of these books in e-book form already? After all, Amazon early on stated a goal of “every book ever published”.
The key thing is copyright.
Most (but not quite all) countries recognize the right of an author to control (within certain limits) what they have written.
The authors then traditionally license the rights to sell their works to companies (publishers). They have done that by format (e-book separately from hardback separately from audiobook, and so on) and territory (some times a country, sometimes a larger geographical area).
If the author has not licensed the rights, they stay with the author (or the author’s estate) as long as the book would be under copyright protection.
Prior to about 2005, e-book rights were not commonly negotiated…in part because there wasn’t much of a market for them.
So, if a publisher licensed the p-book rights for the USA from an author, they didn’t automatically get the e-book rights. That means that the publisher would have to go back to the author/author’s estate for a new negotiation…where they would be in competition not only with other publishers, but with (increasingly) the author publishing the e-book themselves.
It’s those negotiations that can hold up the legal version of the e-book.
In the beginning, several big name authors resisted e-books…they may not have seen them as a good way to experience the books, or they may have been waiting for the market to mature so they knew how much to ask for them.
Ray Bradbury and J.K. Rowling famously held out…and then changed their minds later.
Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife actually is available legally as an e-book…just not through Amazon:
Eventually, unless the laws change, the other books will fall into the public domain. That is, they will no longer be under copyright protection, and the public will own them.
Anybody, at that point, can publish the book…without the author getting royalties, or having any quality control.
I don’t think a lot of authors are holding out under principle any more. I think they realize that not releasing the book legally adds to piracy. People, I believe, would prefer to buy the book legally where they regularly get e-books, than look for an illegal copy (which they may not even realize is illegal) somewhere else.
As I’ve said before, I think that the more you love books, the more you love e-books. I believe that deliberately not releasing a book as an e-book inconveniences unnecessarily people with physical challenges. I understand the desire to make a statement that you want to support physical bookstores (I’m a former brick-and-mortar bookstore manager), but if you believe that p-books are more desirable, then they can beat the competition without you making it a one-horse race.
Regardless, I’m happy to see that this is happening during Harper Lee’s lifetime. I want the author to see the benefits: not just financial benefits, but the joy of seeing new readers of your work, and people getting to return to a favorite who might otherwise find it difficult to do so.
* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. Shop ’til you help!
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.