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'To Kill a Mockingbird' author agrees to e-book release

By Verna Gates

BIRMINGHAM Ala. (Reuters) - Harper Lee, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "To Kill a Mockingbird," has agreed to release the novel - one of the few literary classics available only in print - as an e-book, her publisher said on Monday.

The announcement coincided with the 88th birthday of the reclusive author, who described the digital version set to be released on July 8 as "Mockingbird for a new generation."

"I'm still old-fashioned. I love dusty old books and libraries," Lee said in a rare public statement.

The book, first published in 1960, has sold more than 30 million copies and is available in 40 languages worldwide. According to HarperCollins Publishers, it still sells around one million copies a year.

"Every home has a dog-eared copy of 'To Kill a Mockingbird,' and now readers will be able to add this favorite book to their digital libraries," said Michael Morrison, president and publisher of HarperCollins U.S. General Books Group and Canada.

The book was adapted to a movie in 1962 starring Gregory Peck, who played the novel's main character, Atticus Finch, a white lawyer who defends an African-American man wrongly accused of rape during the 1930s "Jim Crow" era.

The movie won three Academy Awards and is considered by the American Film Institute as one of the best films of all time.

The release of the e-book comes nearly a year after Lee sued her former literary agent over an alleged scheme to trick her into signing away the copyright to her novel. She later reached a settlement.

In February, Lee also settled another lawsuit with a museum in her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama, which she accused of illegally profiting from the book, the only novel Lee ever published.

(Editing by Kevin Gray and G Crosse)

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