Thursday, July 22, 2010

Amazon Kindle's new "Iconic Books" - Backgrounder + advice to do backups

Amazon announced Thursday that The Wylie Agency is publishing 20 e-books from some of the most influential authors through its new Odyssey Editions imprint, making them available for sale exclusively, for 2 years, in the Kindle Store -- more specifically on the Amazon Odyssey Editions page.

These books are available in electronic or digital form for the first time.

Other titles include Norman Mailer's "The Naked and the Dead," Philip Roth's "Portnoy's Complaint" and Ralph Ellison's "Invisible Man."
  The press release emphasizes that you can of course download them and read them everywhere--on your Kindle, Kindle DX, iPhone, iPod touch, BlackBerry, PC, Mac, iPad and Android devices.

Russ Grandinetti, VP of Kindle Content, boldly states that "Our goal with Kindle is to make every book, ever published, in print or out of print, available in less than 60 seconds" (notwithstanding other ideas from Google and Judge Chin's replacement).

Andrew Wylie, President of Odyssey Editions said that "This publishing program is designed to ... help e-book readers build a digital library of classic contemporary literature."

More from Amazon's press release
" The Wylie Agency operates internationally from offices in New York and London.  In business for more than 30 years, it has built a reputation for consistently high standards.  The writers and estates it represents include many of the greatest names in 20th and 21st century literature.  Odyssey Editions is the first digitally native literary imprint launch of its kind.

  Books available in the Kindle Store through Odyssey Editions include modern classics such as Hunter S. Thompson's "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," Salman Rushdie's "Midnight's Children," Oliver Sacks' "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat," Vladimir Nabokov's "Lolita," John Cheever's "The Stories of John Cheever" and four novels from John Updike's Rabbit series.

  The 20 e-books published by Odyssey Editions carry an elegant and unified new look designed in collaboration with Enhanced Editions (  Features include:

* Newly-designed jackets
* Interior typography adhering to best conventions of book design and reading on Kindle
* Colophon, book covers and series design optimized for the Kindle screen "

And here is the full list:
* "London Fields" by Martin Amis
* "The Adventures of Augie March" by Saul Bellow
* "Ficciones" (Spanish Edition) by Jorge Luis Borges
* "Junky" by William Burroughs
* "The Stories of John Cheever" by John Cheever
* "Invisible Man" by Ralph Ellison
* "Love Medicine" by Louise Erdrich
* "The Naked and the Dead" by Norman Mailer
* "Lolita" by Vladimir Nabokov
* "The Enigma of Arrival" by V.S. Naipaul
* "The White Castle" by Orhan Pamuk
* "Portnoy's Complaint" by Philip Roth
* "Midnight's Children" by Salman Rushdie
* "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat" by Oliver Sacks
* "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" by Hunter S. Thompson
* "Rabbit Run" by John Updike
* "Rabbit Redux" by John Updike
* "Rabbit is Rich" by John Updike
* "Rabbit at Rest" by John Updike
* "Brideshead Revisited" by Evelyn Waugh

For more information about these books, visit Amazon's Odyssey books page.  Eleven of these books will be available globally.  The press release doesn't say which ones.

Some Background from the news
 Here's some interesting background from Ben Hoyle's story in The Australian, titled "E-book battle over profits looms between literary agents and publishers."

Hoyle writes that "Britain's Andrew 'the Jackal' Wylie" is "the most feared and powerful of literary agents."

Random House has already questioned the legality of the operation, and one author has predicted "the implosion of the whole publishing model."  Hoyle continues:
' Mr Wylie earned his nickname by poaching authors from rival agencies over 30 years, building up a list that includes Martin Amis, Salman Rushdie and Philip Roth.

  Now, having failed to agree with publishers [on] the size of cut they should take from the digital sales of his authors' work, Mr Wylie has decided to cut them out altogether.

  Odyssey Editions, in an exclusive partnership with Amazon's Kindle store, will publish electronic versions of the books on Mr Wylie's formidable backlist that it believes do not have allocated e-book rights.

  Tom Holland, chairman of the Society of Authors, said the move was “very good for established authors” but could “trigger the implosion of the whole publishing model. This has to be the worry: that big, swinging dick agents will go their own way”.

  Publishers are clinging desperately to their e-book profit margins because they are frightened that the internet will eventually become the primary market and at the moment readers seem unwilling to pay print-book prices for digital versions. '

Be sure to do BACKUPS of these books
Hoyle adds that "His ambitions for the new publishing company are global but he also admits that he is happy to pull the plug on it if it frightens the publishers back to the negotiating table. 'It can be dismantled with the flick of a switch.'"

 This means that they could withdraw the e-books from the Amazon servers during any future negotiations with the publishers.

  Hoyle also mentions that "Stuart Applebaum, a spokesman for Random House in the US, said it had written to Amazon disputing its rights to sell these titles."

  So, if these books are of interest to you in Kindle format, it's a good time to get them but do back them up to your computer in case you ever accidentally delete them as they might not remain forever on the servers for re-downloading later.

Check often:  Temporarily-free late-listed non-classics or recently published ones
  Guide to finding Free Kindle books and Sources.  Top 100 free bestsellers. Below are ways to Share this post if you'd like others to see it.
-- The Send to Kindle button works well only on Firefox currently.

Send to Kindle

(Older posts have older Kindle model info. For latest models, see CURRENT KINDLES page. )
If interested, you can also follow my add'l blog-related news at Facebook and Twitter
Questions & feedback are welcome in the Comment areas (tho' spam is deleted). Thanks!


  1. Just bought "London Fields". If Amazon is compelled to withdraw the books, they will have to refund the purchase price (as they did with '1984' fiasco). But backing up is probably a good idea in any case.

    Presumably Amazon's lawyers signed off on this deal. That doesn't mean RH doesn't have a case, but seems to mean it is well into grey territory.
    Both sides have their points, but I hope something can be worked out without years of paralyzing litigation.

    But we're only talking about 20 books. Maybe it is Amazon's way of getting clarification about what the ebook rights actually are (either through negotiation or litigation) before going further along these lines. Certainly there are many many backlist titles that remain unavailable in the Kindle Store (and other ebook retailers), and that is really something that needs to change.

  2. Tom,
    They refunded the price because they 'took back' the book, an action they've promised in a court of law never to do again, claiming it was a stupidly automated server deletion of an unlawfully sold book and that processes have been changed so that never happens again.

    If these books are later no longer on the server but we did download a copy of it, it's considered non-refundable. But because the whole atmosphere around this is so tense I'd definitely keep a backup.

    RH's case is not at all strong after the Rosetta Books decision. Law tends to depend on things more specifically agreed upon than open-ended.

    Good thought on the 20 books as a test scenario...


NOTE: TO AVOID SPAM being posted instantly, this blog uses the "DELAY" feature.

Am often away much of the day, and postings won't show up right away. Posts done to use referrer-links may never show up.

Usually, am online enough to release comments within a day though, so the hard-to-read match-text tests for commenting won't be needed this way.

Feedback and questions are welcome. Thanks for participating.

Technical Problems?
If you're having problems leaving a Comment, Google's blogger-help asks that you clear the '' cookies on your browser's Tools or Options menu bar and that will fix the Comment-box problems (until they have a permanent fix).

IF that doesn't work either, then UNcheck the "keep me signed in" box -- Google-help says that should allow your comment to post (it's a workaround to a current bug).
Apologies for the problems.

TIP: There's a size limit. If longer than 3500 characters or so, in a text editor, make two posts out of it.

[Valid RSS]