Shortly after her death, Harper Lee's heirs kill cheap paperback edition of To Kill a Mockingbird

A court upheld the sealing away of Lee's will from public view, so it's impossible to say for sure what prompted the move, but this much is clear: schools that assign "To Kill a Mockingbird" -- one of the most commonly assigned books in US classrooms -- will have to pay a lot more for their books, and that money will not, and cannot, benefit the author.

While Hachette only published the mass-market paperback of To Kill a Mockingbird, HarperCollins publishes the trade paperback, hardcover, and special editions of To Kill a Mockingbird, and also published Go Set a Watchman last year. Asked for comment, a spokesperson for HarperCollins, which publishes the trade paperback edition of To Kill a Mockingbird said that the company “will continue to publish the editions that we have.” HarperCollins’s editions of To Kill a Mockingbird ranges in price between $14.99 and $35. As Michael Cader and Peter Ginna have pointed out, Hachette licensed the rights to the book from HarperCollins, which meant that Harper Lee and HarperCollins split the royalties earned from the mass-market paperback. Now, the Lee estate will earn full royalties from every copy sold.

Why does this matter? Mass-market books are significantly cheaper than their trade paperback counterparts. Hachette’s mass-market paperback of TKAM retails for $8.99, while the trade paperbacks published by Hachette’s rival HarperCollins go for $14.99 and $16.99. Unsurprisingly, the more accessible mass-market paperback sells significantly more copies than the trade paperback: According to Nielsen BookScan, the mass-market paperback edition of To Kill a Mockingbird has sold 55,376 copies since January 1, 2016, while HarperCollins’s trade paperback editions have sold 22,554 copies over the same period. (BookScan tracks most, but not all, physical book sales in the U.S. and often lags by a week or more, which means that the actual numbers are almost certainly greater.)

The Mass-Market Edition of To Kill a Mockingbird Is Dead
[Alex Shepherd/New Republic]

(via Reddit)