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Here we'll explore the nexus of legal rulings, Capitol Hill policy-making, technical standards development, and technological innovation that creates -- and will recreate -- the networked world as we know it. Among the topics we'll touch on: intellectual property conflicts, technical architecture and innovation, the evolution of copyright, private vs. public interests in Net policy-making, lobbying and the law, and more.

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January 19, 2006

Austen making a publishing comeback (from the public domain)

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Posted by Wendy Seltzer

The NYT reports that Headline publishers (an outfit nearly impossible to Google) will be re-issuing Jane Austen classics as "Classic Romances."

Don't look for her anytime soon on Oprah, but Jane Austen, dead since 1817, is about to get a jolt of 21st-century image-making. When it is finished, Austen, the clergyman's daughter whose novels include "Sense and Sensibility," "Pride and Prejudice" and "Emma," will reemerge among the royalty of romance. In May, Headline publishers will issue her six novels as "Classic Romances," with glossy pastel covers depicting dashing dandies and bonneted Regency beauties, Reuters reported yesterday from London.

Yup, even though Austen's books are all in the public domain, so Headline gets no copyright exclusivity in their publication, the publisher still thinks it can make them profitable with clever packaging and marketing. That's probably right. Just as filmmakers could attract audiences to the remakes of Pride and Prejudice or the update to Emma in Clueless, so book publishers can find new audiences who wouldn't want to (or think to) retrieve the dry ascii from Project Gutenberg.

As Headline's search page describes:

All six of Jane Austen's novels are being packaged so they appeal to the fiction-buying public, rather than as either dusty academic texts or film tie-ins. A HUGE untapped market \n

More power to them. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a publisher in possession of a good audience, must be in want of a text. (with apologies to Jane Austen)

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: IP Markets and Monopolies


COMMENTS

1. Darshan on January 20, 2006 12:47 AM writes...

no

Permalink to Comment

2. Branko Collin on January 20, 2006 1:14 PM writes...

I don't know why you seem to think that Austen has been away, or that she desperately needs an image boost, or that she needs clever marketing to get her books sold, but if you do, you are completely wrong.

Classics outsell the blockbusters of a few years ago by the truckload. Austen in particular: Pride and Prejudics sold 110,000 copies in the USA in 2002.

Permalink to Comment

3. Branko Collin on January 20, 2006 1:21 PM writes...

One of the articles about this (the link you provided is dead) quotes someone as saying:

"In Britain last year, a total of 160,000 copies were sold of all Jane Austen's books compared to 190,000 for just one Danielle Steel novel."

Now try and imagine how many copies of just one Danielle Steel novel will sell in a hundred years. Zero? Zero times zero? 160,000 copies for an author who has been dead for almost 200 years is not that bad. Comparing those sales figures to the hits of today only works when you keep that in mind.

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