When Open Road Media published an ebook edition of Jean Craighead George’s 1973 Newbery Award–winning Julie of the Wolves in 2011, it was business as usual for the company, which had secured rights from George prior to her death in 2012. But HarperCollins sued Open Road in 2011, saying that its 1971 contract superseded Open Road’s and gave it the exclusive right to license the ebook. On March 14, Publishers Lunch reported that Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald had ruled in favor of Harper.
In February, Open Road Integrated Media announced that it would acquire E-Reads, a pioneer ebook publisher founded in 1999 by literary agent Richard Curtis. The deal is scheduled to close April 1, and adds 1,200 titles to Open Road’s catalog of 4,200 digital books. “It fleshes out Open Road’s growing genre list, specifically science fiction and fantasy,” said company cofounder and CEO Jane Friedman, “with authors like Harlan Ellison, Greg Bear, John Norman, Dave Duncan, Dan Simmons, Brian Aldiss, and Robert Sheckley.” The company plans to make the books available to all channels, including libraries, shortly after the agreement takes effect.
In an internal Random House memo, Jen Childs, director of Library Marketing, reported that the department’s latest initiative, First Look Book Club, took off to a roaring start in February, with 2,500 subscribers opting in. The club, a new book discovery tool, is an offshoot of Suzanne Beecher’s Dear Reader, which began offering five-minute chapter snippets in 2000. While many libraries subscribe to Dear Reader for a fee (it is free to library patrons), the First Look Book Club is free to all and goes direct to librarians, patrons, and “book lovers everywhere,” said Childs, with one Random House title featured each week.
Edwin Buckhalter, whose UK-based Severn House Publishers turned 40 this year, forged his library connection long before he had any idea of publishing primarily for the library market. His father was a bookseller, and their South London shop housed a “mini-library division” that supplied books to libraries.
For an industry pronounced dead repeatedly for at least a decade or more, traditional publishing—and its digital-first counterparts, which might not be so different after all—belied the grim reapers, with innumerable launches and new models that indicated it was alive and well in 2013. Since its inception in July, this column chronicled some of that growth. October and November brought a handful of announcements, including one aimed squarely at public libraries: Skyhorse Publishing’s Carrel Books, set to release its initial list of 20 to 30 titles in both print and ebook in fall 2014.
According to a new analysis released in October by ProQuest affiliate Bowker, the ISBN agency, self-publishing continued its growth spurt, up 59 percent in 2012 over 2011, from 246,912 titles to 391,768. The gains were even more startling over the longer period for which Bowker collected data: a 422 percent rise since 2007.
Ebook distribution to libraries took another leap forward on October 17 when Baker & Taylor, OverDrive, 3M, and RBDigital (Recorded Books) told their customers that Macmillan’s entire ebook backlist, 11,000 titles from lead imprints St. Martin’s, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Henry Holt, Macmillan Children’s, and Tor, would now be available to their patrons.
The recent infusion of $11 million into Open Road Integrated Media by private equity firm NewSpring Capital and others should come as no surprise to those librarians familiar with company CEO Jane Friedman. In only a few years, the former HarperCollins CEO and her team took the digital publishing and multimedia marketing company from distributing a handful of pre-1994 titles by major 20th-century authors like William Styron to over 4,000 titles from 500 authors.