Amazon Publishing recently acquired the digital and audio rights to any of Ed McBain’s previously published works. Ed McBain was the pseudonym of Evan Hunter. The literary genius, who died in 2005, won various awards during his lifetime and sold over 100 million books. A total of 47 titles will be published in digital format through one of Amazon’s genre imprints, Thomas & Mercer. Thirty-five titles from the 87th Precinct series will be released in the fall of 2011 and twelve titles from the Matthew Hope series are scheduled for release in the spring of 2012.
With the purchase of the digital rights, Ed McBain fans will have the chance to own some of their favorite titles in their Kindle ereaders. Readers unfamiliar with Ed McBain will have the opportunity to read his works without having to hunt down the printed editions. Amazon sees this as an opportunity to “offer signature authors a new life for great backlist titles.” They are also likely to see a tidy profit from the sale of his books – a win-win situation for everyone involved.
What remains to be seen is the price for these digital and audio editions. Normally, publishers have the upper hand when it comes to the ebooks Amazon sells. Publishers charge Amazon a certain price for every copy sold, forcing Amazon to factor this fee into their pricing. With the Ed McBain books, Amazon will not have to worry about paying a publisher fee – the rights to the books belong to Amazon. This means that Amazon can price them any way they want. They could even give them away, although that is not likely to happen.
Is this a signal of many more author backlists to come? This seems to be a smart move on Amazon’s part. By purchasing these older titles, Amazon is opening the doorway for other authors and their backlist titles to be turned into ebooks. Readers that enjoy collecting printed books just may decide they need matching digital editions, leading to more soaring profits for Amazon.
This could even lead to more healthy competition by encouraging stores like Barnes & Noble to buy the digital and audio rights to another popular author’s work. It will be interesting to see which rights Amazon and other bookstores buy in the future. With millions of printed books sold in the past, these bookstores will have plenty of options, leading to even more ebooks for consumers. Just one more signal that ebooks and ereaders are here to stay.