Week 40/19 – week ending 4 October

Bristol University to house historic copy of Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Bristol University will house a copy of Lady Chatterley’s Lover that once belonged to Sir Laurence Byrne, the judge who presided over the landmark 1960 obscenity case, keeping the historic edition in the UK.

In May, the government slapped an export ban on the book and English PEN launched a campaign asking whether a UK buyer could be found to match the auction price of £56,250, to save the edition after it was sold at auction in October 2018 to an individual in the US.

Writers including Neil Gaiman and Stephen Fry rushed to support the campaign, as did Penguin Books which donated £10,000 to the cause. Other financial supporters included the TS Eliot Foundation, Friends of the National Libraries, the Penguin Collectors Society and Elizabeth Lane.

Professor Judith Squires, deputy vice chancellor of the University of Bristol, told the BBC the book would be “a source of inspiration, teaching and research for our staff, students and visitors”.

The book will be showcased among other papers at the university relating to the famous case.

HarperCollins puts ‘limited number’ of titles into Kindle Unlimited

HarperCollins has begun selling a “limited number” of backlist e-books via Amazon’s £7.99 a month subscription e-book service Kindle Unlimited in the UK and Australia in a major shift from one of the big publishers.

The publisher confirmed that as of today (1st October) 100s of backlist titles had been released as part of what was described as a “strategic and tactical” push; titles featured include The Midnight Gang by David Walliams, Bernard Cornwell titles Sharpe’s Tiger and The Last Kingdom, Hilary Mantel’s The GiantO’Brien, and Cecelia Ahern’s PS, I Love You.

HarperCollins UK is the first of the big corporate UK publishers to participate in the subscription scheme, first launched in 2014. Up to now, the subscription service has focused on self-published titles and e-books from smaller publishers, alongside some high-profile books such as the Harry Potter series and the Hunger Games trilogy.

Agents have been informed about the initiative and given the option to exclude their authors’ titles. Nevertheless, the move will be controversial: subscription is widely seen among traditional publishers as potentially damaging to their overall revenues from e-books, as well as a risk to their business through bookshops.

But HarperCollins has argued that, based on a limited number of titles included, the service can be used as a discovery tool to drive à la carte business: for example the inclusion of Ahern’s backlist book comes just two weeks after the release of its follow-up Postscript, which is not included in Kindle Unlimited. It also believes that it and its authors are missing out on a major growth area, with e-book sales from traditional publishers having flat-lined in recent years.

A HarperCollins spokesperson said: “We are testing participation with Kindle Unlimited in the UK with a limited number of our e-books to understand how readers use the service and to ensure we are exploring all possible avenues for our authors. We believe there is opportunity to drive sales through Kindle Unlimited and a la carte sales by allowing readers as much choice as possible in how they access content.”

Amazon has long-struggled to convince the major publishers to participate in KU. At the launch of KU in the UK in 2014 a number of titles from independent publishers such as Faber and Canongate were included, but later removed by some of the publishers; however David Naggar, vice-president of Kindle Content for Amazon.com, has lobbied publishers and agents to include titles in the service, arguing that it could be used as an effective marketing tool for authors. Some traditional publishers, such as Simon & Schuster in the US, have trialled a small number of titles on KU, but never to the extent of this HarperCollins’ initiative. A number of independents still include titles on KU, including Atlantic’s White Tiger, and Canongate’s Life of Pi and The Secret River.

Authors and small publishers participating in KU earn royalties from an Amazon global fund, which in August was worth $25.8m, presumably made up of pooled revenue, with payouts based on the number of e-books read, and the amount read; but Amazon has previously signalled that for the bigger publishers it is willing to be flexible on terms. HarperCollins has previously signed up to competing subscription schemes, such as those offered by Scribd and BookBeat, arguing that the terms were beneficial to authors.

HarperCollins declined to reveal the terms of this arrangement.