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The New York Times announces two new e-book publishing deals

The New York Times has announced two new partnerships with online companies that see the traditional Grey Lady embracing digital publishing in a way that goes far beyond the usual relationship between a newspaper and its online edition. Not only will the Times will open its back pages to digital publisher Vook for a program of curated article reprints, the paper is also teaming with e-book startup Byliner for a new series of digital publications.

The partnership with Byliner will see the two companies co-publishing a series of short e-books throughout 2013, “featuring narratives in areas in which The Times has reporting expertise including culture, sports, business, science and health,” according to the announcement of the deal. Byliner is known for putting out e-books aimed at readers with a short attention span; It describes itself as “the leading publisher in the fastest-growing segment of digital books,” with that segment defined as publications under 30,000 words (similar to Amazon’s Kindle Singles program). Byliner author accolades include Margaret Atwood, Amy Tan, and Nick Hornsby.

Details of the company’s partnership with the Times are still somewhat in flux; “up to a dozen” books in the pipeline will bear the New York Times/Byliner Originals branding, with only three specific titles named: An untitled book by the newspaper’s “Common Sense” columnist James B. Stewart, another from the paper’s Washington bureau chief David Leonhardt, and the launch title, Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek, which expands on a previously-run newspaper article by John Branch. Snow Fall will be released this coming Monday, December 17, from Byliner and the Times’ NYTStore.com storefront for $2.99.

Vook, however, is looking at repackaging existing material from the Times’ long history. The company will release “TimesFiles” in association with the paper, a series of what’s described as “curated selections of articles … assembled into compelling narratives about a particular topic or event.” Unlike the Byliner co-publishing agreement, the TimesFiles titles will be released in greater quantity and frequency: 25 titles in the line (including The Rise of Apple, The Fall of The Berlin Wall and The Life and Times of John Hughes) will be released on Monday through Amazon’s Kindle store, Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, and Apple’s iBookstore, in addition to NYTStore.com.

Although these partnerships mark new ground for the Times – coming just a week after the paper’s launch of Compendium – the move suggests that the NYT is taking its digital future a little more seriously these days. It’s nothing new for the newspaper industry as a whole; the Washington Post, Boston Globe, and USA Today have already moved into the e-singles book market to varying degrees of success. It may not be the future of newspapers just yet, but one thing’s for sure: It’s potentially a more lucrative way of monetizing digital content than setting up paywalls and hoping for the best.

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