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J.D. Salinger's books to finally get digital release

Reclusive author's estate was seen as one of the major literary e-book holdouts.

A January 28, 2010 photo shows a copies

J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye will for the first time be available as an e-book this week.

Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

One of literature's biggest e-book holdouts is about to make the leap to digital. J.D. Salinger's estate plans to publish some of the reclusive author's classic stories in e-book form this week.

The Catcher in the Rye; Nine Stories; Franny and Zooey; Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters; and Seymour: An Introduction, will be released as e-books on Tuesday, The New York Times reported Sunday. Salinger's estate was considered a major e-book holdout, partly because his son Matt Salinger vigilantly guarded the late author's privacy and legacy.

"This is the last chip to fall in terms of the classic works," Terry Adams, vice president, digital and paperback publisher of Little, Brown, told the Times. "All of the other estates of major 20th century writers have made the move to e-books, but Matt has been very cautious."

Salinger, who died in 2010 at the age of 91, published his last work in 1965 and didn't speak to the media after 1980, choosing to live a reclusive life in New Hampshire. He withdrew from public life and refused to allow reissue or e-book versions of his books.

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It wasn't until recently that Matt Salinger considered digitizing his father's works. Things began to change around 2014, when he received a letter from a woman who explained she had a disability that made reading printed books difficult. Then on a trip to China earlier this year, he realized how many young people overseas read books exclusively on phones and tablets and that digitizing his father's works was the only way to get them in front of his core audience.

"I hear his voice really clearly in my head, and there's no doubt in my mind about 96 percent of the decisions I have to make, because I know what he would have wanted," Matt Salinger told the Times. "Things like e-books and audiobooks are tough, because he clearly didn't want them."

The release is part of a centennial celebration of the author's birth. Matt Salinger also plans to release decades' worth of unpublished writing, but that will take several years to accomplish.