E-book rights for older books become newest battleground in publishing

Any publisher worth its salt will tell you that the real money in the business doesn't come from the current bestsellers by Stephanie Meyer and James Patterson, but the backlist: that deep catalog of books that were published years ago. Titles like J.D. Salinger's 1951 novel The Catcher in the Rye help Bertelsmann Media's Random House division attract and keep today's marquee authors. Nielsen Bookscan, which measures approximately 75% of total retail sales, says Joseph Heller's 1961 Catch-22 has sold about 85,000 copies this year.