Although the New York Times sold its Times Books unit to Random House in 1984, the paper of record continues to publish books under its prominent trademark in a variety of ways. And beginning sometime before the upcoming holidays, the NYT also plans to launch its own Web retailing site, featuring NYT titles as well as other products.

Mitchel Levitas, editorial director of book development and a former editor of the New York Times Book Review, told PW that the NYT is focused on extending the New York Times brand into book publishing "without becoming a book publisher" itself. Under the New York Times News Services Division, the book development unit generates book projects and oversees deals with about 13 large and small trade book houses to publish books under the NYT brand.

Although Levitas described the NYT's "self-publishing" projects as "cautious and targeted," the company has recently increased its efforts in this area, publishing books that generally focus on reference material from the NYT archives. The NYT is launching a series of guidebooks (with distribution by Publishers Group West) that feature repurposed material from the print and Web editions as well as original, signed material by NYT critics and reporters. In November the Times will release The New York Times Guideto Restaurants in New York City 2000 featuring reviews by Ruth Reichl, Eric Asimov and William Grimes, and The New York Times Guide to Hotels in New York City 2000. The NYT also has several other books in the works, including an annual guide to New York City and a guide to New York City art exhibitions, compiled by NYT art critics and distributed by Abrams.

The book development unit oversees book deals with Macmillan Trade, Lebhar-Friedman, Morrow and Penguin Putnam, among others. "Publishers approach us all the time," said Levitas, who pointed to recent titles with such houses as McGraw-Hill (The New York Times Century of Business by Floyd Norris and Christine Bockelmann) and Pocket Books (The New York Times/Kids First Guide to the Best Children's Videos), as well as the long-running Science Times series with Lyons Press that features eight titles with two new ones (on archeology and mammals) due in the fall.

The NYT continues its long relationship with its former imprint Times Books. "They come to us with ideas and we go to them," Levitas said. "It's a two-way street." Times Books continues to publish calendar books, a health series, puzzle books and cookbooks under the NYT brand, as well as the recently released New York Times Guide to the Best 1000 Movies Ever Made by Janet Maslin and Vincent Canby.

And look for more picture books and instant books similar to such titles as Champions: The 1998 New York Yankees (35,000 copies sold) and the recently released The Century in Times Square, culled from the picture archives of the Times. Levitas declined to predict the ultimate size of the NYT publishing program. He explained, "We sit down and figure out the best way, the best channel for a book. We don't worry about how many. We want to be sure we're hitting the right content areas."