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The SF Gateway to offer out-of-print genre titles as eBooks

August 21, 2011

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Gollancz, the science fiction and fantasy (SFF) imprint of the Orion Publishing Group, has announced the launch of what it claims will be the world's largest digital SFF collection. The SF Gateway will make thousands of out-of-print titles by prominent genre authors available as eBooks.

Just to clarify, while the official press release refers to the SF Gateway as a "library", the books are definitely for sale. The titles are out of print, but for the most part, are not out of copyright.

The SF Gateway was inspired by the success of the publisher's Masterworks series. Gollancz's Digital Publisher Darren Nash said, "The Masterworks series has been extraordinarily successful in republishing one or two key titles by a wide range of authors, but most of those authors had long careers in which they wrote dozens of novels which had fallen out of print. It seemed to us that eBooks would offer the ideal way to make them available again. This realization was the starting point for the SF Gateway."

The SF Gateway will offer full backlists for all of the authors included in the collection. When it is launched in Fall, it will include more than a thousand books by almost a hundred authors. The publishers will continue to build the collection, and are aiming to offer more than 5,000 titles by 2014.

According to the press release, the authors to be included at the time of launch include:

Poul Anderson, Barrington J. Bayley, Gregory Benford, Michael Bishop, James P. Blaylock, James Blish, Marion Zimmer Bradley, John Brosnan, Fredric Brown, John Brunner, Algis Budrys, Kenneth Bulmer, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Pat Cadigan, John W. Campbell, Jr, Terry Carr, Arthur C. Clarke, Hal Clement, D.G. Compton, Michael G. Coney, Edmund Cooper, Richard Cowper, John Crowley, L. Sprague de Camp, Samuel R. Delany, Philip K. Dick, Gordon R. Dickson, Christopher Evans, Philip Jose Farmer, John Russell Fearn, Alan Dean Foster, Mary Gentle, Mark S. Geston, Joseph L. Green, Colin Greenland, Nicola Griffith, Joe Haldeman, Harry Harrison, Frank Herbert, Philip E. High, Robert Holdstock, Cecelia Holland, Robert E. Howard, Raymond F. Jones, Leigh Kennedy, Garry Kilworth, Damon Knight, Henry Kuttner, Tanith Lee, Murray Leinster, H.P. Lovecraft, Katherine MacLean, Barry N. Malzberg, Phillip Mann, David I. Masson, C.L. Moore, Ward Moore, Edgar Pangborn, Frederik Pohl, Rachel Pollack, Tim Powers, Mack Reynolds, Keith Roberts, Eric Frank Russell, Josephine Saxton, Bob Shaw, Robert Silverberg, Clifford D. Simak, Dan Simmons, John Sladek, Cordwainer Smith, E.E. 'Doc' Smith, Norman Spinrad, Olaf Stapledon, Theodore Sturgeon, William Tenn, Sheri S. Tepper, James Tiptree, Jr, E.C. Tubb, George Turner, Harry Turtledove, Jack Vance, Ian Watson, Ted White, Kate Wilhelm, Connie Willis, Robert Charles Wilson, Gene Wolfe

Going by the SF Gateway's official Twitter feed, pricing should be comparable to other eBooks, which is to say that they will probably be just a tad cheaper than paper books. It was also tweeted that the collection would be available in "the usual" formats, presumably including at least PDF, EPUB and, I assume, MOBI/AZW. The eBooks will also reportedly be sold "through all the usual retail channels", which I assume will include the likes of Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Interestingly, the SF Gateway will be closely integrated with the online edition of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. The encyclopedia will provide information on the authors, and will include direct (read: retail) links to purchase books in the collection from online retailers. The SF Gateway site itself will act as a hub for the SFF community, allowing users to socialize and exchange recommendations.

Ahh, the news warms my nerdy heart! Perhaps the biggest single benefit of "going digital" on an industry level is that, because nobody needs to worry about physical warehousing, the approach is eminently compatible with maintaining a large back-catalog.

Given fears that the surging popularity of eBooks will sound the death-knell of print publishing, it's quite refreshing to see an eBook-based initiative bringing some lost classics back from the brink.

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