In 2010, the Fleming estate chose not to renew its publishing contract with Penguin for the James Bond novels, and proceeded to release them electronically in the UK via Amazon, Waterstones, and other e-book retailers. In March of this year, Random imprint Vintage Books acquired the world publishing rights for ten years to the 14 Fleming Bond novels and two nonfiction titles, but not the US or Canadian rights. It wasn’t clear who would be the North American publisher.
But now we know: the books are back with Amazon again, but this time for both print and electronic publication. Amazon announced yesterday that it had acquired a ten-year license on those same 16 books for publication in North America.
"We are devoted fans of Fleming’s Bond novels here at Amazon Publishing, and we’re thrilled these books–already known across the world and across generations–will continue to flourish under our Thomas & Mercer imprint," says Philip Patrick, Director, Business Development, Rights and Licensing. "Amazon Publishing offers signature authors a new life for great backlist titles. Fleming is the perfect fit."
While James Bond is certainly one of the world’s most recognizable action franchises, Laura Hazard Owen points out on PaidContent that this is likely more of a symbolic victory for Amazon than a financial one—the books have historically not been the huge sellers in the US that the movies were. Still, it’s almost certainly the biggest brand name yet to come to Amazon’s controversial publishing imprint, and it wouldn’t be surprising if Amazon vastly overpaid to land that cachet. Amazon has a long history of loss leaders, after all.