A new program debuts on Sirius XM Book Radio this week: “Penguin Classics on Air,” a half-hour series devoted to the discussion and exploration of some of Penguin Classics’ 1,500-plus titles. Penguin employees will write and produce the series, and the show will air twice a week—Mondays from 3:00 to 3:30 P.M. and Thursdays from 11:30 P.M. to midnight—on Sirius 117 and XM 163.

Penguin Classics editorial director Elda Rotor, associate publisher Stephen Morrison, and senior director of academic marketing Alan Walker are hosting the show, which features conversations with scholars and other experts. For this week’s episode, “Why We Love Jane Austen,” Rotor interviews Austen scholar Juliette Wells; Walker introduces listeners to the Penguin Classic novel Excellent Women by Barbara Pym; and Morrison reads the opening to Pride and Prejudice.

The next 10 weeks’ worth of episodes include “The Noli: Jose Rizal and the Novel that Sparked the Philippine Revolution,” “A Hero of Our Time: The First Major Russian Novel?,” “Scholem Aleichem: Yiddish Classics by the Creator of Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof,” and “The Birth of Knickerbocker: Washington Irving’s A History of New York.”

“Penguin Classics on Air” is part of Penguin’s “From the Publisher’s Office,” an online network where readers can watch, listen and read content that has been created, recorded and produced by Penguin staff.

Also today, Penguin Group (USA) and Amazon announced the third annual Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Competition. For the first time, the competition will award two grand prizes: one for general fiction and one for best young adult novel. The 2010 competition will also be open to novels that have been previously self-published. The competition runs from January 25, 2010 and until February 7 at www.amazon.com/abna.

Amazon.com’s v-p of U.S. books Jeff Belle said, “By offering two grand prizes and providing additional opportunities for self-published authors, we’ll be able to support an even larger group of talented authors and their work.”

As in previous years, PW reviewers will select 50 semi-finalists for each category, and Penguin editors will choose three finalists for each award with winners receiving a publishing contract.