Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Star Wars Publishing Goes Digital: SWEU Catalog E-Books Release Date Announced

As first reported by the USA Today, the long rumored and much anticipated digitization of the Star Wars Expanded Universe catalog of novels is finally becoming a reality.  On June 28th all 106 Star Wars novel titles will be available in e-book format.

We had hints that this was coming, for a while we have gotten official responses to questions about e-books by those like Sue Rostoni on the Starwars.com Message Boards in the VIP thread, basically stating that contractual issues needed to be worked out before the Star Wars library could be brought to the digital format. 

Then in March listings for Star Wars e-books started appearing on Random House's Smart Archive website, with the place holder date of August 17, 2011.  This news elicited the official response from  Del Rey Editor Erich Shoeneweiss:
As we've been saying for some time, we're working hard with Lucasfilm to make ebooks available as soon as possible for all the novels. It's a complicated process and not one that happens quickly. While the information that is being posted and talked about on other sites sprang from info on a Random House website it's common practice for Random House to use temporary data as placeholders until plans for books are finalized. When the time is right Random House and Lucasfilm will release an official statement regarding when we will expand our ebook program. Until then we ask for your patience. Thank you. (ES)
Below is Lucasfilm and Random House's official announcement regarding the E-book releases:

Expanding a relationship that began more than 30 years ago, Lucasfilm and Random House Inc. announced today that the entire library of Star Wars fiction titles under the Del Rey and Bantam Spectra imprints will be available in eBook format as of June 28, 2011. Over one hundred backlist titles will be converted into digital editions, along with any future Star Wars novels presently in production. These titles will join the thirty Del Rey Star Wars novels currently available as eBooks. All Star Wars eBooks from Del Rey and Bantam Spectra will include additional content at the back of the book. The extra content will include the following:

  • An updated Star Wars novels timeline
  • An introduction to the six major Star Wars eras: The Old Republic, Rise of the Empire, Rebellion, The New Republic, New Jedi Order, and Legacy
  • Over half a dozen additional excerpts from some of the most popular Star Wars books of the last thirty years
"Readers and fans have been asking for the Star Wars novels to be made available digitally, and we're excited that we can finally make this happen," said Howard Roffman, President of Lucas Licensing. "We're committed to providing fans with great Star Wars stories that can be enjoyed on any reading platform. We're thrilled to see the extensive backlist of Del Rey and Bantam titles made available electronically."
"Over 30 years ago, Del Rey Books published the novelization of the very first Star Wars film," said Gina Centrello, President of the Random House Publishing Group. "Since that time, the Star Wars Saga has grown to become a worldwide phenomenon. We're exceptionally proud to have been at the helm of such a rich and vast literary universe, and thrilled to be working with our partners at Lucasfilm as we move into the future with eBooks."
 I am very excited by this news.  I am a Kindle owner and already have a few of the limited Star Wars titles that are available in e-book format.  The fact of the matter is that Star Wars books take up and entire wall/bookshelf in my house, and the option to stuff all those books into one small device is incredibly appealing. 

Having Star Wars books at my fingertips either on my phone or on the Kindle makes it much easier to sneak in a few minutes of reading here and there. 

I am a book collector, I like have a hard copy of all the books, so in many ways I am the ideal consumer for Random House and Lucasfilm, because I will be buying most books in both formats.  That does raise the issue of pricing however, as the realities of a budget have to factor in to fandom at some point.  The official announcement from Lucasfilm does not give any details for pricing of the books.  The place holder data on the Smart Archive website listed most of the titles at $7.99 (you can see the full chart w/placeholder data here), the same as you will pay for a new Star Wars TPB release such as John Jackson Miller's Knight Errant novel.  If I was betting money, I would say that this is the most likely price point for the majority of the older titles in the catalog.  I think we will see new books priced as they have been recently with new hardcover books being in the $13.99 range as e-books, while either new TPB releases or once a hardcover book gets a TPB release, I think the e-book price will be in the $7.99 range. 

One thing I would like to see the publishing industry do is something that the film industry has done, that is include either a free digital copy or perhaps a discounted digital copy with the purchase of a physical edition of a title.  For example, purchase a hard cover Star Wars novel and get a free e-book download of the same book, or a 50% of coupon for the e-book of the same book. 

It strikes me that e-books are a boon for the publishing industry in that, it makes reading more accessible and makes people more likely to purchase books.  At the same time it should lower production costs significantly while not impairing profits significantly.  I would assume if the piracy issue can be managed, that publishers would prefer e-books over traditional publishing. 

SOURCES: Starwars.com and USA TODAY

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