Gollancz deal to put Encyclopedia of Science Fiction online

The third edition of the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction is to be released online and not as a book, under an arrangement with Orion imprint Victor Gollancz and ESF Ltd, a new company set up by the contributors to the first two editions of the book. The content will be available on www.sf-encyclopedia.com and be free to all users, with Gollancz acquiring electronic rights to the book through United Agents' Robert Kirby.

An initial "beta" version of the site will go live in conjunction with Gollancz' celebrations of its 50th anniversary as a science fiction publisher. The initial version of the third edition will contain around 3 million words, up from the second edition in 1993, which contained 1.3 million, and will feature about 12,000 entries and more than 100,000 internal links. The entries cover all areas of science fiction, including authors, illustrators, movies, music, games and fanzines. The text will be completed, through monthly updates, by the end of 2012.

The directors of new company ESF are John Clute and David Langford, leading editors of the edition, as well as Peter Nicholls who edited the first edition and is editor emeritus of the third edition. Graham Sleight is managing editor of the edition, and also a director of the company. Sleight said the company had been set up with the "financial backing of friends of the project and of science-fiction".

Orion deputy c.e.o. and group publisher Malcolm Edwards said: "We're delighted to have been able to facilitate the online publication of this monumental and definitive work--more than ever the single, reliable reference source which anyone interested in SF needs. As a contributing editor to that long-ago first edition, it's a particular pleasure to me to have been able to play a part in making this happen."

This is the first time Gollancz has been involved with the ESF. In terms of the electronic rights deal, Edwards said: "It is a slightly fine distinction, we have licensed it and underwritten the web development." On why Gollancz had decided to enter into the project, and to make the content available for free and only online, Edwards added: "There are other announcements we are planning to make that clearer next week. It's not entirely altruistic." He added: "We explored various paywall options and we realised none of them were really practical with the way that the web is moving . . . The ESF is very much not a wiki model, the content is controlled by the editors." He said that the sheer volume of content made the prospect of a print edition challenging, but said: "if there proves to be the demand then we will look at it."

Sleight said "never say never" when asked if the title would ever be available as a physical edition or e-book, but said: "We are hoping to be more directly in touch with the whole communtity [through the content being available online]."

When asked if ESF could take on other similar projects, he didn't rule out the possibility, and mentioned Clute had co-edited an encyclopedia of fantasy, but said: "At the moment, with 3 million words, we've all got enough on our plates."