‘Mockingbird for a new generation’: A classic text goes digital

BY Anya van Wagtendonk  April 29, 2014 at 11:51 AM EST
Photo by Flickr user Jose Sa

Photo by Flickr user Jose Sa

Though its themes of justice, honor and tolerance are timeless, “To Kill a Mockingbird” will take on a distinctly 21st-century form later this year when, half a century after its publication, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel will be released electronically.

In a statement Monday night, HarperCollins Publishers announced that they had acquired digital and audio rights to the classic story. Readers will be able to download both an e-book and an audiobook, narrated by Sissy Spacek, beginning in July, the 54th anniversary of Mockingbird’s original publication.

Harper Lee, the book’s famously reclusive author, had been a stalwart against digital publication. Though she has published only sparingly since “Mockingbird,” she took to the pages of Oprah Magazine in 2006 to extol the pleasures of ink-and-paper books. “In an abundant society where people have laptops, cell phones, iPods, and minds like empty rooms, I still plod along with books,” she wrote.

In Monday’s announcement, Lee professed that she is “still old-fashioned. I love dusty old books and libraries,” but added that “this is ‘Mockingbird’ for a new generation.”

“To Kill a Mockingbird” tells the story of Atticus Finch, a lawyer defending a black man accused of rape in the Jim Crow-era Deep South, from the perspective of his daughter, Scout. A bestseller and perennial classroom favorite since its publication in 1960, it still sells more than a million copies each year and has been translated into over 40 languages.