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'The Color Purple' Released As eBook

Oprah Winfrey The Color Purple

By HILLEL ITALIE   09/20/11 01:43 PM ET   AP

NEW YORK -- Alice Walker's "The Color Purple," a Pulitzer Prize winner in 1983 and still a widely taught and talked about novel, is finally coming out as an e-book.

But not through a traditional publisher.

Open Road Integrated Media, the digital company co-founded two years ago by former HarperCollins CEO Jane Friedman, has reached an agreement with Walker to release the electronic version of "The Color Purple" and most of her other work.

New editions of "The Color Purple" and the novels "The Temple of My Familiar" and "Possessing the Secret of Joy" were released Tuesday. On Nov. 22, eight more books will be published. The e-books will include author interviews, photographs and personal documents.

"I love reading a good book while flying through the air," Walker said in a statement. "I've traveled all my life and have visited many of the faraway places I dreamed of as a child: India, Australia, Bali, South Africa, Iceland, etc. On each journey I've carried books. Books that taught me a lot, while engaging my sense of wonder, but that got heavier and heavier! Open Road promises to be a way for my books to accompany travelers on their own journeys of exploration and learning."

Open Road has previously acquired e-rights to such best-sellers as Pat Conroy's "The Prince of Tides" and William Styron's "Darkness Visible" by offering royalty rates of 50 percent, double what traditional publishers usually offer, and by promising aggressive promotion.

"Open Road has the best technical know-how and best forward-moving energy. I love the way all the people I've worked with express and carry themselves: with confidence and enthusiasm but also with a sense of experience. They have a track record," Walker said.

"If this were not enough, there is a sense, lacking often in publishing, of connectedness with the author, of all of us being in this adventure together, wanting it to be the best."

Walker's agent, Wendy Weil, wrote in an email that "with e-book publishing bursting into popularity during the last two years, this seemed to be the perfect time and e-publisher to market her backlist successfully." Walker is best known for "The Color Purple," set in rural Georgia in the 1930s. It was adapted into a 1985 Steven Spielberg film of the same name and more recently into a Broadway musical.

As the digital market rapidly grows, agents and publishers have disagreed over older books, with agents saying that the contracts did not cover e-books because the format didn't yet exist and publishers saying such rights were implicit.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which originally published "The Color Purple" and the other works being issued electronically by Open Road, did not immediately return phone and email requests for comment Monday.

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