eBooks and Out of Print Books

Certainly one of the less-talked about implications of ebooks is what it could mean for out-of print books. While countless numbers of out-of-print books still possess some faded existence tucked away in university library collections and the odd used book store, gone is not necessarily the same thing as forgotten. And that seems to be the premise that London-based Bloomsbury is taking (Reuters: “Bloomsbury venture to bring books “back from dead”):

“Talk about bringing books back from the dead … It’s actually, in some instances, a struggle to find a print copy that we can start the process with. In that sense it’s sort of saving books as well for future generations.”

Another challenge is to reach a big enough audience and make the works stand out in a marketplace that tends to be dominated by bestseller lists and “hot” new titles.

“The challenge is how do you get a book that’s may be 50, 80 years old and find its audience,” Duncan explained.

The publisher is focusing on books which are out of print and where all English-language rights have reverted back to the author or the author’s estate.

At $8.99, these initial digital offerings appear to be priced low enough to attract some interest. How much interest that ultimately ends up being, as noted above, is the big question. The Guardian (“New Bloomsbury digital imprint revives hundreds of neglected classics”) also offers some additional details on this modest beginning for what we may see more of the traditional publishing houses do, “to bring these books back to life and get people talking about them.” It will be up to book publishers to think creatively about how to market long-forgotten books (will readers be interested in out-of-print books, when so many in-print books are already out there?).

Also, as far as I was able to tell, it appears that Bloomsbury’s ebook offerings are only available in ebook form through Amazon Kindle.

You can visit the Bloomsbury Reader’s 230 ebook catalog at the Bloomsbury website, here.


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I run the ThinkLab at the University of Cambridge, and research digital habits, productivity, and wellbeing.

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