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Amazon content coup? E-tailer gets exclusive Roth, Mailer, Nabokov and Updike backlist

July 21, 2010 | 10:39 pm

Normanmailer_2003

Amazon.com now has exclusive rights to sell the e-book versions of some of the best-known titles from top literary authors Philip Roth, Norman Mailer, Vladimir Nabokov, John Updike and more. In an announcement late Wednesday -- shortly after midnight Thursday, East Coast time -- the online retailer revealed that a deal with the powerful Wylie Agency will give Amazon.com the exclusive e-book rights for two years to books such as "Lolita." The e-books will only be available through the Kindle store.

What's new? In the simmering conflict between Amazon's Kindle, Apple's iBookstore/iPad and everyone else, few exclusive content deals have been announced, and certainly none of this magnitude. While Mailer's enormous debut novel "The Naked and the Dead" may not sell as many copies as "The Help," it is generally considered an Important Work. To capture it for the Kindle means that, for at least two years, readers that count on other formats and devices will be lacking in an essential 20th century novel.

This is an early indication that now that the devices have staked their claims, what matters isn't how well they work, but what content they can deliver.  (VHS versus Beta, anyone?)

The titles will be offered through Odyssey Editions, a cooperative venture between Amazon.com and the Wylie Agency. Its first 20 titles are:

“London Fields” by Martin Amis
“The Adventures of Augie March” by Saul Bellow
“Ficciones” (Spanish Edition) by Jorge Luis Borges
“Junky” by William Burroughs
“The Stories of John Cheever” by John Cheever
“Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison
“Love Medicine” by Louise Erdrich
“The Naked and the Dead” by Norman Mailer
“Lolita” by Vladimir Nabokov
“The Enigma of Arrival” by V.S. Naipaul
“The White Castle” by Orhan Pamuk
“Portnoy’s Complaint” by Philip Roth
“Midnight’s Children” by Salman Rushdie
“The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat” by Oliver Sacks
“Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” by Hunter S. Thompson
“Rabbit, Run” by John Updike
“Rabbit Redux” by John Updike
“Rabbit Is Rich” by John Updike
“Rabbit at Rest” by John Updike
“Brideshead Revisited” by Evelyn Waugh

The e-books can be purchased for the Kindle and Kindle applications on Thursday.

-- Carolyn Kellogg
twitter.com/paperhaus

Photo: Norman Mailer in 2003. Credit: Los Angeles Times


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