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Updated 10:00 AM July 27, 2009

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Reprint agreement will make U-M rare books widely available

The university will make thousands of books that no longer are in copyright — including rare and one-of-a-kind titles — available as reprints on demand under a new agreement with BookSurge, part of the group of companies.

The agreement gives the public a unique opportunity to buy reprints of a wide range of titles in the U-M Library for as little as a few dollars. As individual copies are sold on, BookSurge will print and bind the books in soft-cover form.

"This agreement means that titles that have been generally unavailable for a century or more will be able to go back into print, one copy at a time," says Paul Courant, U-M librarian and dean of libraries.

"The agreement enables us to increase access to public domain books and other publications that have been digitized," Courant says. "We are very excited to be offering this service as a new way to increase access to the rich collections of the university library."

Maria Bonn, director of the library's scholarly publishing office, says the reprint program includes books digitized by the U-M and those digitized through the U-M's partnership with Google. The initial offering on Amazon will include more than 400,000 titles in more than 200 languages ranging from Acoli to Zulu.

All of the books being offered on Amazon through BookSurge are titles that remain available in their original form at the U-M Library. The university has been offering a limited number of titles for reprint on demand with BookSurge and other distribution partners for the past five years. A reprint best seller might sell 100 copies, Bonn says.

The university will set the list price of each book. The agreement calls for a sharing of revenue between BookSurge and the university.

Sales of reprints often are tied to topical events, Bonn says. An election campaign might bring a surge of interest in older political texts.

A reference to the Knights of the Golden Circle in the "National Treasure" movies prompted at least 35 people to purchase copies of the 1862 book, "K.G.C. An authentic exposition of the origin, objects and secret work of the organization known as Knights of the Golden Circle."

Other books available for reprint, at prices ranging from $10 to about $45 depending on length, include these titles:

• "Notes on Nursing: What it is and what it is not," written in 1898 by Florence Nightingale.

• "The Art of Perfumery," published in 1857.

• "Trigonometry with the Theory and Use of Logarithms," written in 1914.

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