As I’ve done once before and hope to do more of in the future, I'm devoting today’s post to one of my favorite publishers. Open Road Integrated Media was founded in 2009 by a former executive from HarperCollins. The company’s business model seems to be to buy up the electronic rights for previously published print books, both fiction and nonfiction, and rerelease them as e-books. It’s possible they may publish some first-run titles as well, as many of their authors are still alive and kicking. Their selection is wide, with over 10,000 titles now available, and their prices are always reasonable.
Open Road has a “daily deal” email blast called Early Bird Books, which I look forward to every day. If you haven't signed up for it, you should. Each day they offer about a half dozen different e-book titles for two or three bucks apiece. Buyer beware: the purpose behind such generosity is often to hook you on the first book in a series, as they have recently addicted me to Clifford D. Simak (see more on him below). Open Road publishes some e-book reprints of public domain classics, which they sell for 99 cents and often give away, but I prefer to just get those for free from Project Gutenberg. What I like about Open Road is that they offer what I would call “medium-old” books; that is, books that are too old to be considered current literature, yet too young to be copyright free.
Below is a list of a few of Open Road’s authors that I’ve sampled, often by taking advantage of their Early Bird Books deals. This is barely the tip of the iceberg as far as what they offer, however, so go browse their website.
Poul Anderson (1926-2001)
Anderson was named a Grand Master of science fiction, and he also wrote historical novels. In the latter category, I have purchased The Golden Horn, book one in the Last Viking Trilogy, but haven’t read it yet. Open Road sells e-books of 33 Anderson novels, including the sci-fi Harvest of Stars trilogy and the King of Ys series, set in ancient Rome and cowritten with his wife Karen Anderson.
Pearl S. Buck (1892-1973)
It was Pearl S. Buck who first turned me on to Open Road. After years of looking for her novels in used book stores, it was a relief to find her works available in e-book format, often offered for very low prices. Open Road sells 29 e-books of Buck’s best-known works, mostly her historical novels of China. Old Books by Dead Guys has reviewed eight Buck books: East Wind: West Wind (1930), The Good Earth (1931), Sons (1933), A House Divided (1935), Dragon Seed (1942), The Promise (1943), China Flight (1943), and The Living Reed (1963). All but China Flight are available from Open Road. I have another handful waiting to be read, including This Proud Heart (1938) and Peony (1948). I hope Open Road eventually expands this line to include Buck’s more obscure, farther afield works. Perhaps there are rights issues standing in the way, or maybe those less critically acclaimed works just haven’t been deemed worthy of resurrection.
Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
Several collections of Einstein’s writings are published by Open Road, including his landmark work The Theory of Relativity. Books like Essays in Science and Essays in Humanism cover the wide breadth of Einstein’s thought. His personal convictions and idealism are revealed in The World As I See It and Out of My Later Years. A while back I picked these up for free, but they usually go for about ten dollars each.
James Grady (1949 - )
Grady is the author of the Condor series of spy novels, beginning with Six Days of the Condor (1974), upon which the Robert Redford film Three Days of the Condor was based. Open Road has it, along with four other Grady books, including Condor.net (2011), a recent sequel.
James Hilton (1900-1954)
Open Road offers e-books of six of Hilton’s novels, including his best known works Lost Horizon (1933) and Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1934). The former is a pretty good novel about a secret utopia in the mountains of Tibet.
Halldór Laxness (1902-1998)
Icelandic author Halldór Laxness won the 1955 Nobel Prize in Literature. Open Road only publishes one Laxness e-book, The Atom Station (1948), which I did not care for. The English-language rights for most of Laxness’s novels are held by Vintage Books.
Fritz Leiber (1910-1992)
Leiber is a Hugo and Nebula Award-winning author of science fiction, fantasy, and horror novels. He was a pioneer of the sword and sorcery genre with his Lankhmar series of “Swords” novels (e.g. Swords in the Mist , Swords against Wizardry ), which I remember reading in junior high. The series chronicles the adventures of two sword-wielding heroes called Fafhrd and The Gray Mouser, the former being a giant barbarian and the latter a diminutive thief. These books are kind of like Robert E. Howard’s Conan series, but with a better sense of humor. Open Road offers the complete Lankhmar Series, as well as several of Leiber’s science fiction and horror novels, including The Big Time (1961).
Katherine Anne Porter (1890-1980)
I had previously read all of Porter’s short stories and essay in the volume of her works published by the Library of America (2008). However, her only novel, Ship of Fools (1962), was not included in that volume, and I was able to pick it up in e-book format from Open Road for a couple of bucks. I was not too crazy about the book, to tell the truth, but I’m glad I had an opportunity to read it on my Kindle for a low price.
Dorothy L. Sayers (1893-1957)
Sayers is best known as the creator of the fictional detective Lord Peter Wimsey, one of the best sleuths in British literature this side of Sherlock Holmes. I have read the first book in the series, Whose Body? (1923), and gave it a favorable review. Open Road has all 15 of Sayers’ books in the series, which includes both novels and short story collections.
William Shatner (1931- )
Hardly a classic author, but when Shat’s TekWar (1989) came up as a daily deal, how could I resist? Though I’m a fan of pulpy sci-fi, I found it so-so at best. However, if you’re so inclined, Open Road offers e-books of all nine volumes in the Tek series.
Clifford D. Simak (1904-1988)
Simak is one of the most respected and highly decorated science fiction authors of the 20th century, having won multiple awards for sci-fi as well as fantasy and horror (and he wrote westerns!). I have encountered a few of his stories over the years, but never really knew the extent of his prolific career until I read the collection I Am Crying All Inside and Other Stories: The Complete Short Fiction of Clifford D. Simak, Volume One (2015). This series, published by Open Road, is projected to amount to 14 volumes (the first six are available now). If the first book is any indication, this will be an excellent series. Open Road also publishes e-books of about 20 Simak novels, including his best-known work, City (1952).
Upton Sinclair (1878-1968)
Open Road recently released e-book editions of Sinclair’s 11-volume Lanny Budd series. Previously, one had to hunt for used copies of these books or pay $50 for a hardcover edition. Now they can be dowloaded in seconds for about $10 each. I can’t thank Open Road enough for finally making these books accessible to a broader audience. Lanny Budd is a wealthy American, living in France, who gets involved in many of the most important historical events of the early 20th century, all told through the lens of Sinclair’s leftist views. (Imagine if Howard Zinn wrote spy novels.) Fans of this series include Albert Einstein, George Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells, and Mahatma Gandhi. So far I have reviewed the first three volumes—World’s End (1940), Between Two Worlds (1941), Dragon’s Teeth (1942)—and I’m currently working on book four, Wide Is the Gate (1943). Open Road also offers inexpensive e-books of several other Sinclair novels, including The Jungle (1906) and King Coal (1917).
Philip Wylie (1902-1971)
I’ve only read one book by sci-fi author Wylie, Gladiator (1930). The bad news is Open Road doesn’t publish it, but the good new is it’s in the public domain, so you can read it for free. Open Road does, however publish seven of Wylie’s sci-fi novels, including The Disappearance (1951), which I hope to get to soon.
On their website, Open Road boasts that they publish over 2,000 authors. Granted, that includes the authors of many public domain works that you can get elsewhere. Even so, they’ve still got a sizable stable of talent in the “medium-old” books category. If only all of my favorite early 20th-century authors were so easy to find, purchase, and download. Keep up the good work, Open Road!