Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Press Release Your Luck | Gollancz's Gateway to SF

When just a few weeks ago Gollancz announced that a significantly updated edition of ye olde print reference tome The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction would be made available to all comers on the internets at no charge, I'll admit: excited as I was about the prospect of One Resource To Rule Them All - which is exactly what I imagine this definitive third edition of the encyclopedia will represent - I did wonder where their margins were.

Were Gollancz undertaking this behemothic endeavour just to curry favour with the genre community? Or would it be monetised, somehow?

Well, now we know. This press release just arrived in my inbox:

Gollancz, the SF and Fantasy imprint of the Orion Publishing Group, announces the launch of the world’s largest digital SFF library, the SF Gateway, which will make thousands of out-of-print titles by classic genre authors available as eBooks.

Building on the remarkable success of Gollancz’s Masterworks series, the SF Gateway will launch this Autumn with more than a thousand titles by close to a hundred authors. It will build to 3,000 titles by the end of 2012, and 5,000 or more by 2014. Gollancz’s Digital Publisher Darren Nash, who joined the company in September 2010 to spearhead the project said, “The Masterworks series has been extraordinarily successful in republishing one or two key titles by a wide range of authors, but most of those authors had long careers in which they wrote dozens of novels which had fallen out of print. It seemed to us that eBooks would offer the ideal way to make them available again. This realization was the starting point for the SF Gateway.” Wherever possible, the SFGateway will offer the complete backlist of the authors included.

The SF Gateway will be closely integrated with the recently announced new online edition of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, which provides an independent and definitive reference source of information on the authors and books included. Direct links between the Encyclopedia and the Gateway will provide easy access to eBook editions, for sale through all major online retailers.

The Gateway site will also act as a major community hub and social network for SF readers across the world, allowing them to interact with each other and recommend titles and authors. The site is planned to include forums, blogs, regular promotions, and is envisaged to become the natural home on the net for anyone with an interest in classic SFF.

Authors featured in the launch include such names as Marion Zimmer Bradley, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Arthur C. Clarke, Philip K. Dick, Frank Herbert, Alice B. Sheldon (James Tiptree, Jr), Robert Silverberg, Kate Wilhelm and Connie Willis. A full list of authors so far under contract is appended to this announcement; negotiations are in anadvanced state for many more. 

The announcement in its entirety can be found here.

In short, then, when it arrives, The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction will come hand-in-hand with a second site, SF Gateway, which looks to have its hooks deep in the encyclopedia: where possible, articles in the latter will include links to related eBooks made available through the budding marketplace of the former. Which roundly answers my earlier question.

Nor, by the sounds of it, is SF Gateway merely some genre-oriented shopfront. It also has designs on providing this community we're all a part of in one way or another with a social network tailor-made to our needs: a gathering place along the lines of Suduvu and and of course the Westeros forums.

And I'm all for that. Come to that, I'm all for all of this... depending on a couple of little things.

Which is to say: depending of course on the still-TBD implementation of these two prongs - depending, in other words, on how passive or invasive this interlinking proves to be when the time comes, and furthermore whether or not the content of the enclyclopedia is in any way, shape or form governed by those eBooks the SF Gateway will sell - taken together, these two bold new ventures sketch the outline of what could come in time to be a single indispensable resource. And if any one publisher in the UK is better positioned to make a go of such a thing than Gollancz, I haven't heard of it.

So it's good news, everybody!

Are we all agreed?


Update 18:00

Quick as that, our man in Gollancz - that is to say deputy publishing director Simon Spanton - got back to me to allay whatever concerns I may have had about how the relationship between the encyclopedia and SF Gateway might jeopardise the form and/or content of either endeavour, or both. He's what Simon had to say:

A condition of the SFEncy accepting our support in going online was the absolute maintenance of their editorial independence. Nor have any considerations about inclusion of titles on SFGateway been influenced by the content of the SFEncy. Linked and integrated they may be but the independence of the projects is too key to their value for there to be any consideration of moving away from that independence.

So let's keep this quick: fly away, my fears! :)

Couldn't be happier to see 'em off, either.

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