Vatican publisher enters e-book market in Italiano

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican publishing house’s exclusive contract with Apple to market a series of books through iTunes made headlines in Italy, where it marked a real breakthrough.

For the first time, books published directly by the Libreria Editrice Vaticana (LEV), are available electronically.

The 13 e-books are only in Italian and only cover LEV’s illustrated thematic collections of Pope Benedict XVI’s weekly general audience talks on subjects including: praying with the Psalms; the Apostles; Paul and the first disciples; and the early fathers of the church.

LEV licenses other publishers around the world to release and market the collections in other languages, both in print and in electronic form. Ignatius Press offers both the printed and electronic versions of the audience collections in the United States. Father Costa said the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops also has the rights to the electronic version in English.

(The bishops’ conference publishing office already offers thematic collections of papal talks — on the Eucharist and on Mary, among other subjects — in e-book form through its online bookstore, iTunes and Amazon.)

Father Costa said LEV chose Apple for its e-book rollout because Apple was the first company to approach the Vatican about handling electronic versions of its books in Italian. While Italian collections of the pope’s audience talks will remain with Apple, he said LEV is likely to work with Amazon on producing other e-books in Italian.

The Italian e-book market has been slow to take off, but “it’s an unstoppable process,” Father Costa said. While the LEV-controlled Italian versions of the first two volumes of Pope Benedict XVI’s major work “Jesus of Nazareth” are not available in electronic form, the third volume will be, he said.

Earlier this summer, Pope Benedict was reported to have finished writing the volume, which covers Jesus’ infancy and childhood. Father Costa said he didn’t have a publication date because the work of translating it from German had just begun. The Vatican Secretariat of State is overseeing the translation work.

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