Ian Fleming Estate Reverses Course, Gives Up James Bond E-Book Rights

Ian Fleming Publications attracted attention when, in 2010, it announced it would publish the James Bond e-books directly instead of selling the digital rights to Bond print publisher . Two years later, Ian Fleming has changed its mind and sold the entire bundle of print and digital rights to Penguin competitor Vintage (part of Random House) in the UK.

Penguin held the print rights to the James Bond novels for years, but at the time the original deal was signed digital rights weren’t on anybody’s radar. Ian Fleming Publications held onto the digital rights and published the Bond e-books in the U.S. in 2008, then in the U.K in 2010, Sarah Weinman reported at the time. She also noted, “The estate may have some leverage because of the Bond’s popularity across many different forms of media, and most fans don’t automatically think of Penguin when they think of 007.”

In 2010, Ian Fleming managing director Corinne Turner told The Bookseller, “Penguin accepted long ago that they didn’t have the digital rights. Of course they wanted to do it, but why would we. With a brand like ours, people are looking for the books anyway, so the publicity and marketing will happen. It also gives us greater clarity of sales, which books are selling and where. We are very lucky to have such a big brand.”

Now Ian Fleming has reversed course. UK book trade publication The Bookseller reports Vintage acquired the English-language rights to sell the 14 Bond novels in print and digital formats everywhere outside the U.S. and Canada for the next ten years. (Penguin also held the rights to the Bond print books in the U.S.; a search for a new U.S. publisher is underway here.)

“When we were launching e-books in the UK ourselves, we were never saying we would keep e-book rights locked away forever,” Turner said. “To look after Fleming in the current market, you need to have the full rights to manage the brand.” Jonny Geller, the Curtis Brown literary agent who handled the deal, said the bundling of print and digital rights “shows publishers have moved on, and have a lot to offer.”

Over 100 million copies of the James Bond books have been sold worldwide, and Daniel Craig stars in a new movie, Skyfall, coming out this fall.