Samuel French goes digital

Play publisher launches e-book sales

Play publisher Samuel French Inc. is expanding into electronic publishing, launching an ebook sales program on Tuesday.

Gradual rollout of titles and devices will initially see about 100 plays — from scribes including Charles Busch, Marsha Norman, Israel Horovitz and Dale Wasserman — made available via Apple’s iBooks app, with Kindle, Nook and other platforms to follow.

Company aims to have some 300 titles available by the end of the month and targets the 1,000 mark by the end of the calendar year.

Samuel French is one of the first play publishers to venture into the electronic marketplace, as well as the oldest and largest to do so. Founded in 1830, the company has offices in Gotham, L.A. and London as well as retail shops in Hollywood and London, and it has a catalog of some 4,000 plays currently in print.

According to Ken Dingledine, Samuel French’s director of publications and operations, the electronic copies, to sell for about $8.99 each, won’t likely replace the hard-copy acting editions that are Samuel French’s bread and butter.

At least not yet. In the immediate future, electronic titles on offer won’t be tailored to, say, allow for a thesp to make blocking notes, or to run lines using an ereader’s audio playback function. “But we see things going in that direction, and we look to lead that charge,” Dingledine said.

Initially, he added, the electronic versions of the scripts will likely be embraced by industry types reading titles as potential additions to a theater season, by teachers selecting plays for study or by general readers.

Other writers whose plays will be rolled out in the coming weeks, include Paddy Chayefsky, Rajiv Joseph, Matthew Lopez (“The Whipping Man”), Sheila Callaghan and Cusi Cram.

French has partnered with digital distributor INscribe Digital for the electronic expansion, as well as with Jouve North America to develop cross-platform ebook coding for their titles.

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