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Novels That Should be Ebooks but Aren’t

May 1, 2013

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The great thing about ebooks is that I can buy them without going to the bookstore (that’s not so great for the bookstores, I guess).  The problem (besides bookstores going out of business) is that not every book I want to read or reread has been made into an ebook yet.  Even though millions of books and novels have been made available electronically, even more millions (pure speculation on my part) of older books haven’t. 

Most popular modern books are available electronically (read a more thorough explanation here).  The classics are already available (often for free).   The classics are well-known, and there’s a demand for them (and their copyrights have expired).  But what about older books that people have forgotten?  

There are a lot of issues (most of which I don’t fully understand) behind digitizing an old forgotten book.  If the novel has been completely forgotten, then there’s no demand, and turning it into an ebook would be a waste of time and effort.  If the authors of forgotten books are still alive, then their publishing contracts will say nothing about ebooks (because they hadn’t been invented yet), and there’s the potential for a legal fight about who (author or publisher) gets how much of the digital profit.  The possible legal cost might not be worth the profit that might or might not happen by making the novel an ebook. 

It can get complicated.  For whatever reasons, there are a bunch of books that I read years ago that I would love to see made available as ebooks.

DISCLAIMER:  I buy books from Amazon Kindle and haven’t tried the other services (like Nook and something else).  If the following novels are indeed available, please let me know. 

The Darkness and the Dawn by Thomas B. Costain 

A lot of Costain’s novels are available as ebooks, but not this one.  It’s a fairly simple story (that might be why it hasn’t made it into ebook form yet) about a Roman slave during the time of Attila the Hun’s invasion.  I read this as a teenager and a couple times as a young adult.  It’s sanitized historical fiction by today’s standards, but I’d still love to read it again, and it’s difficult (not impossible) to find. 

***** 

Bloodstone by Karl Edward Wagner 

Besides Robert E. Howard’s Conan books, the Kane series is the best sword & sorcery of the 1960s and 1970s.  If you don’t know what sword & sorcery is, think The Game of Thrones without all the soap opera crap.  An anti-hero fighting monsters and sorcerers while seducing scantily clad women with no morals with lots of bloody sword battles in between.  It takes a great writer to create a world and then kill almost everybody in it and still make the reader care what happens, but Karl Edward Wagner did that (for me anyway). 

I had all the Kane books (including the short story anthologies) until about five years ago when I sold them.  Ugh.  I shouldn’t have done that. 

***** 

Massage Parlor II by Jennifer Sills 

My first literary porn.  Before I could get my hands on Penthouse Forum, I somehow got a copy of Massage Parlor II.  And I took it to school.  And I passed it around.  And it never got picked up by a teacher.  This was the kind of book that kept me from getting picked on during my teenage years.  I was the kind of kid that should have been picked on at school (yeah, I know that nobody SHOULD get picked on, but you know what I mean).

I was quiet and I read a lot.  But when you bring books like Massage Parlor II to school (and can also talk about football), it negates other potentially damaging traits (like reading a lot and wearing glasses and occasionally participating in classroom discussions). 

***** 

Cheesy historical novels like Arena and The King’s Cavalier published before 1960 (see above picture)

I lived near a used book store when I was a teen and bought a bunch of cheap paperbacks (that I wish I still had).  Most of these were historical novels, usually about the Romans or Medieval times.  These books are probably just as good as the cheesy historical novels that get published today, so it would be great to have them available.  Authors like Samuel Shellabarger and Jay Scotland usually wrote historical page-turners, and I managed to keep a few of them, but I’d like to read more without having to deal with (sometimes shifty) booksellers (who send out books with missing pages or detached covers).  Put these up for a few bucks as ebooks, and I’ve got a summer reading list. 

***** 

Of course, this list isn’t complete.  Every book lover has an old yellow-paged out-of-print favorite that isn’t available electronically yet.  What old novel would you like made into an ebook?

8 Comments
  1. There are a couple of sites that specialize in e-book versions of old out of print books:

    http://www.classicly.com/

    http://www.gutenberg.org/catalog/

    I have gotten a lot from both sites.

  2. Cary permalink

    Lately I’ve been interested in language preservation and I have a general interest in languages and linguistics. There are huge numbers of grammars of obscure languages that are not just not available as ebooks but are difficult to find in print.

    Novel-wise, Tanith Lee has a bunch of older fiction that’s not available as an ebook (and is often difficult to find in print too).

  3. So…how fast do you type? You could start an e-publishing business. 🙂

  4. I think that we might start seeing more and more of those old books in the coming years. Publishers fought the ebook revolution for years, thinking it just a fad. But, it’s gone past the fad stage, and, I think it’s here to stay. I still love a real book much more than an ebook… but, I rarely buy anything but ebooks now — I’m a nightowl, and I can buy and download the book the instant I see it, and I don’t have to leave. And, to go somewhere, with a million books at your fingertips — well, that’s brilliant for us booklovers. Beats lugging around a suitcase full of books, let me tell you!

    There were lots of cheesy historical novels back in the day — reading those about Rome and The Medieval period were what led me to be a history major in college. There are several I’d read again, though, for the life of me I can’t recall the titles.

    I am waiting for David Eddings to be available as ebooks … last year, the Stephen Donaldson “Thomas Covenant” books finally made it to my ereader.

    I was reading somewhere… not long ago… that many authors, with books out of print, are self publishing them on Amazon — so, I think it’s just a matter of time.

    • I can’t believe it took this long for the Covenant books to become digitized (is that a proper term for it?). I know of at least one lawsuit where an author who published a book in the 1970s is getting sued by her original publisher for making her novel into an ebook without them. I’m not sure what would happen with deceased authors, like Karl Edward Wagner (and his Kane books). But I really hope you’re right.

      • Greedy corporate bastards… suing the poor author. But, i suppose a contract gave them rights for x number of years… intellectual property rights are screwed in this country — they typically favor the publisher over the author who created it in the first place.

        But, I do think that the trend is moving towards more and more digitized books… especially now that the hold-out publishers from Amazon lost (settled) their suit, and their books are now beginning to appear on Amazon…

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