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Vintage acquires licence to Bond, including digital

Vintage has acquired the licence to publish Ian Fleming's James Bond titles across all formats including digital, reversing the decision made by Ian Fleming Publications 15 months ago to publish the e-books direct. For the first time for an author's backlist, Vintage will publish in both its Classic and standard paperback ranges.

Several publishers pitched for the rights, with Vintage m.d. Richard Cable acquiring exclusive English-language rights to the 14 Bond novels in worldwide, excluding US and Canada, for a 10-year period. Vintage takes over the print rights from Penguin, which never held the digital rights, a scenario which saw IFP release the e-books itself in late 2010.

IFP m.d. Corinne Turner said the company looked at the decision to include the e-book rights this time around "very carefully". She said: "When we were launching e-books in the UK ourselves, we were never saying we would keep e-book rights locked away forever. To look after Fleming in the current market, you need to have the full rights to manage the brand." Curtis Brown agent Jonny Geller, who handled the deal, added: "We didn't have any problem rolling the e-book rights back in—it shows publishers have moved on, and have a lot to offer."

The Vintage Classics will come after the paperbacks and e-books—which will appear this summer—but before the new Bond film, "Skyfall" in October. Cable said: "We felt there were two overlapping but distinct audiences—a strong nostalgic audience, but also a new audience coming through all the time." Vintage sales director Tom Drake-Lee will take on the extra role of Ian Fleming brand manager.

Neither side would discuss the value of the deal, but Cable said there was "nothing out of the ordinary on the commercial side". Penguin UK c.e.o. Tom Weldon said: "We were kindly offered a new 10-year licence but the financial value we placed on it was different to the one [IFP] placed on it. We wish James Bond and the Ian Fleming estate all the best."

Two non-fiction books written by Fleming, Thrilling Cities and The Diamond Smugglers, are included in the deal, but the e-book editions of the Young Bond titles, written by Charlie Higson, remain at IFP. Puffin publishes the print versions. The "new" Bond novels are subject to other licence agreements and remain at their current publishers. However, Turner said: "We and Random House hope that our relationship will cover new projects." Geller and Turner said a US deal was in the pipeline, again to find a successor to Penguin, which held world English-language print rights.

Jonathan Cape, Vintage's sister imprint, was the first publisher of Bond, starting with Casino Royale in 1953. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the first Bond film, "Dr No".