The Houston Press’s Books blog has a roundup of five classic novels you cannot (yet) read on a Kindle, for various reasons. The reasons are actually the most interesting part: two of them—One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke—have to do with copyright and rights issues—Solitude involves payments to the English translator, and 2001 is available in other countries but not in the US.
Two more—The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee—are unavailable because their authors didn’t want adaptations in general or e-books specifically, respectively. And the last, the Harry Potter series, is of course actually on its way with the forthcoming launch of Pottermore.
Of course, when you get right down to it the headline is actually missing a word: these are books you cannot legally obtain for your Kindle yet. I don’t know about Catcher or Mockingbird, but I know the Harry Potter books are definitely available electronically through not-quite-legitimate means, and have been ever since each one was published.
Rowling will still sell millions of copies of her books electronically, though who knows how many she could have sold if her e-books had always been commercially available? My mother, the librarian for a small-town Missouri high school, says that the Harry Potter books are by and large passé among the students who check out from her; few people at her school bother to read them anymore. How many more people would have bought them if she’d struck while the iron was hot?
But something tells me J.K. Rowling doesn’t really care too much about the money anyway; it’s just come out that she’s fallen off of Forbes’s world billionaire list after having given over $160 million to charity.
I doubt the lack of an ebook edition has caused teen enthusiasm for Harry Potter to fade, even if that is true. I enjoyed the first volume as a lot of fun. But each subsequent volume seemed to get longer and filled with more complexity than I wanted to deal with. The last was the worst of all. I only made it through because I was listening to the audiobook version while I took walks. During the first half of that book, the main characters seem to run from place to place in their magic tent until I felt like screaming “enough already, give me some movement and change.” Tolkien handled days of weary and monotonous travel by his characters in a few paragraphs. Rowlings goes on and on and on.
Many teens girls are now into The Hunger Games. I saw that when some of the actors in the movie appeared at a shopping center near me. I’ve yet to read the books and discover why. I suspect it reflects their anxiety about the future with huge budget deficits being created now to be passed on to them as well as their response to the latest hysteria-mongering by those with political agendas.
The first is genuine and ought to bother them. Debt does destroy countries. As for the second, they’ve not yet had enough experience with life to see just how bogus it is. When I was their age, the hysteria was about a “Silent Spring,” (DDT/chemicals everywhere) along with a ‘population explosion.’ That’s been followed by global cooling, resource depletion, nuclear winter, and a global warming that’s now warped into climate change because the world hasn’t been warming for over a decade.
Classics are books that endure because they deal with universal themes that endure from generation to generation. To Kill a Mockingbird, for instance, deals with bigotry, one of humanity’s chronic ills. I suspect some of our current hits aren’t of that sort. What they address is very real and present now, but it isn’t an enduring or universal theme.
All of the books you mention are easily available on peer-to-peer networks.
In Rowling’s case, I wonder if the loooong run of the Harry Potter movies may partly account for the lack of interest among younger readers, if it indeed exists.
“Peer-to-peer networks” is a clean-sounding phrase for a lot of ugly terms you can find in the copyright criminal code. It’s like calling car theft rings “peer-to-peer auto networks.”
I would have expected a mention of Daphne DuMaurier’s “Rebecca” here. It is one of the most sought after classics that are not available as an e-book. In ereaderIQ’s most watched list, the only books above it are Harry Potter and To Kill A Mockingbird. And I don’t consider Harry Potter a classic yet. A classic needs to stand the test of time. I’m sure it will, but in my book, it is not a classic until it has done so. Plus, it is not worth mentioning any more, since we know it is coming in e-book format – I’d rather a story like this focus on the books that are not on the imminent horizon.
Regarding Rebecca, the book is still in copyright and the author is dead, so I am guessing this is either an orphaned work or the estate has not been willing to negotiate e-book rights. I would love to read this book again, but I can’t find my paper copy and don’t wish to purchase another in paper format.
But thanks for the info on Marquez. I have been waiting for his books to be available in e-book format for a long time. I have always wondered why I could find them in the original Spanish, but not in English translation. Hopefully, they can work out the translator thing.
Another famous novel that isn’t available in an e-book format is Thomas Pynchon’s GRAVITY’S RAINBOW
Peer to peer is a pretty accurate discription of the technology from a computer networking perspective. It is a tool like any other some people use it for good purposes others use it for bad purposes. Some people like the word piracy, but is too romantic a word to describe what is going on.