With all of the buzz—both positive and extremely negative—surrounding the large number of literary agents now exploring ebook-only titles for their author clients, a new level of credibility and respectability has come out in the form of a major publishing house expanding to release the digital rights to out-of-print and author-held rights’ books.
Bloomsbury Publishing, an independent publisher of fiction for children and adults, announced in May of this year that they would begin releasing digital titles of out-of-print works whose rights had reverted to the author or the author’s estate. Bloomsbury Reader debuted this month with an astounding 500 titles in its current catalog, with plans to expand exponentially.
A lot of the controversy regarding the publishing industry climbing into bed with the digital publishing world stems from the so-called conflict of interest in agents shopping books to publishers, or rather, not shopping books to other publishers now that they themselves have taken on the responsibility for converting the book to electronic reader and releasing it to the various ebook distribution platforms. One thing that agents have insisted again and again in the debates is that industry professionals with any kind of credible reputation for a high standard of ethics will always make the best decisions for their clients.
But who watches a publisher who decides to send a title straight to digital and print-on-demand, as Bloomsbury Reader will do? As many have stated, the reputation will speak for itself. In case anyone is not familiar with Bloomsbury’s reputation in the industry, the publishing house released a popular juvenile fiction series a few years ago about a boy wizard named Harry Potter. Perhaps if Bloomsbury had embraced digital sooner, those very titles would be available through the Reader instead of through the Pottermore website’s collaboration with Google Bookstore.
Interestingly, readers will still have access to Bloomsbury Readers’ titles through the U.S. and UK Amazon stores, despite announcing that the titles will be available in formats that are compatible with all devices. The current Bloomsbury Reader site redirects consumers to the Amazon page for each title.
Whether reading consumers think this is a sign that a major publisher is keeping up with the times or selling out remains to be debated across the blogs and message boards. The end result, for now, is that Bloomsbury Reader is resurrecting some out-of-print titles and making them available to a new audience in both digital and print-on-demand formats. That can’t be all bad.