July 26, 2010

A group of notable authors, and their estates, are bypassing traditional book publishers and turning some classic works directly into e-books in order to sell them exclusively on Amazon’s Kindle. The writers, including Philip Roth, Martin Amis, Vladimir Nabokov, Hunter S. Thompson, John Updike, William S. Burroughs and Saul Bellow, or their representatives have signed with literary agent Andrew Wylie, founder of Odyssey Editions, which will be selling e-books on Amazon.com for $9.99.

Alison Flood reports that the move is a direct challenge to traditional book publishers, who have argued that they own the digital rights to books for which they publish the traditional print editions.

“In December, Random House wrote to agents informing them of its belief that it holds exclusive rights to digital editions of the ‘vast majority’ of its backlist titles, even those acquired before electronic rights were specifically included in contracts. That letter enraged authors, and the Authors Guild issued a statement saying that ‘publishers acquire only the rights that they bargain for; authors retain rights they have not expressly granted to publishers. E-book rights, under older book contracts, were retained by the authors.’ “
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