The Science Fiction Gateway

Paul Raven @ 21-07-2011

For those of you not so deeply plugged in to the sf lit and fandom circuits of the intertubes, I’ll act as a repeater station for a signal worth passing on: venerable UK sf imprint Gollancz has announced its SFGateway project, which will integrate a growing backlist of classic sf titles in ebook formats with the also-forthcoming online Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

Here’s the main meat from the press release, which you can read in full if you so wish:

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 SF Gateway 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.

All of a sudden, I’m genuinely interested in buying an ebook reader. (Or at least a device with ebook-reading capabilities; I suspect the standalone ebook reader will be an exemplary illustration of Chairman Bruce’s concept of “obsolete before plateau”, killed off by convergence in the tablet market, folded in as one more function for your general purpose portable computing/connectivity platform.)

I’m quite impressed at how well Gollancz have kept this on the downlow for so long, too, especially given all the folk in the [aca]fandom circuit (myself included) carping loudly about publishers failing to embrace new platforms and technologies. The sheer joined-up-ness of this project (and the decision to base it all on pure HTML5, with no flash-in-the-pan walled-garden proprietary app crapola) is ambitious and forward-looking; I’m sure there’ll be some minor snags here and there, but I get the sense that this has been thought through very carefully, and that a certain allowance for tweaking and flex has been built in.

And to see that vast (and apparently set-to-grow) backlist of out-of-print titles brought back into availability is a thing of wonder. Ladies and gentlemen of Gollancz, and everyone else who has been involved: I salute you.

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6 Responses to “The Science Fiction Gateway”

  1. Dave says:

    Big question: will these be available in the States?

  2. Shadow says:

    Dave –

    It’s on the web. Use the link in the quoted text of the post. The placeholder page indicates launch in 70 days. You can sign up to be notified in email when it happens.

  3. AnthonyA says:

    Very interesting to read.

    Don’t forget – you don’t _need_ an ebook reader to read these. You can do it on an ordinary home computer, too.

    Also, with Borders bookstore ( a big-box bookstore in the USA) going out of business, I expect their ebook reader, the Kobo, to get dumped on the discount marketplace for a pittance, in about two months.

  4. Dave says:

    Following up on my original comment, I was correct to worry about whether these features would be available in the US. Although the Gateway site is “on the web,” the ebooks — the biggest piece — are seemingly not available at all in the US. The FAQ indicates that some books should be available here but I haven’t found any.

    Color me shocked.

  5. Paul Graham Raven says:

    According to the FAQ, the convoluted mechanics of the ebook rights system mean that the only way you can get these titles in the US is via Amazon’s Kindle store:

    http://www.sfgateway.com/faq#non_anglophone

    Not ideal, perhaps, but better than nothing, and hardly Gollancz’s fault. You can bet your boots that they’d rather it was easier for everyone to buy what they’re selling. 🙂

  6. Dave says:

    Wow, Paul — inconvenient to be sure, but downright wonderful compared to what I thought was going on. Thanks! I don’t see why they don’t just link to the Amazon page for American browsers, though.