Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) Publishing is launching a new series, “Book Lust Rediscoveries,” curated by librarian and NPR commentator Nancy Pearl. Pearl will select a handful of out-of-print books each year to be republished by Amazon in print and digital formats.
Each book in the series will include an introduction by Pearl, reading group discussion questions and a list of recommended further reading. The series will be published under Amazon Publishing’s AmazonEncore imprint and the line will include about six books each year (out of the hundreds that Amazon is now publishing overall).
The first two titles are both novels: A Gay and Melancholy Sound by Merle Miller, originally published by William Sloane Associates in 1961, and Rhian Ellis’s After Life, originally published by Penguin in 2000.
Nancy Pearl is the author of Book Lust: Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment and Reason, which includes many books that are out of print. Amazon says “Pearl received numerous letters from readers who were eager to read these books, but were having great difficulty finding copies. This dilemma inspired Pearl’s idea to republish a series of her recommended books.”
Pearl’s new initiative reminds me a bit of Open Road Integrated Media, the company launched by former HarperCollins CEO Jane Friedman. Open Road has expanded into book marketing, e-singles and a variety of other areas, but part of its original mission was to publish backlist or out-of-print books by authors like William Styron and Pat Conroy in digital format for the first time. (Open Road is now being sued by HarperCollins over the e-publication rights to Jean Craighead George’s Julie of the Wolves.)
“This project is especially close to our hearts since it’s about rediscovering and republishing great books, which was the tenet of our first imprint, AmazonEncore,” said Victoria Griffith, the publisher of Amazon’s Seattle division. The current AmazonEncore list is mostly made up of previously self-published titles, though it also includes books previously published by other publishers.
A couple other things stand out about this announcement:
–Nancy Pearl is a well-known and popular literary figure who has received awards like Library Journal’s 2011 Librarian of the Year Award and the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association’s 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award. Amazon Publishing is launching her line at a time when many people in her community–independent booksellers, librarians and some authors–are openly angry at Amazon for what they see as predatory business practices, relentless discounting and attacks on independent bookstores.
Turns out Seattle’s The Stranger heard that Pearl would be working with Amazon a few days ago. “If Pearl is bringing her recommendations to Amazon.com, many of the local librarians and independent booksellers who supported her and her Book Lust TV show and series of books will feel disappointed, and even betrayed, by the move,” Paul Constant wrote.
So the reaction to this should be interesting to watch, although it is only six books a year, and Pearl “has committed to donate a portion of the proceeds from the sales of books in the Book Lust Rediscoveries to the Nancy Pearl Endowment for Public Librarianship at the University of Washington’s Information School.”
–The announcement mentions by name Nancy Pearl’s literary agent: “Pearl’s literary agent, Victoria Sanders of Victoria Sanders & Associates LLC, represented her in this deal.”
–The availability of the books in print is mentioned before their availability on Kindle: “Book Lust Rediscoveries will publish approximately six books a year and will be made available for sale in print editions via Amazon.com and as audiobooks via Amazon.com and Audible.com, at bookstores, wholesalers and libraries nationwide and as eBooks in the Kindle Store.”