LONDON (Reuters) - The Man Booker Prize for English fiction will allow authors from any country to compete for one of the world's best known literary awards from next year, organizers said on Wednesday.
The prize - which has been open only to citizens of the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland since its launch in 1969 - will from 2014 see competition primarily from U.S. authors, although any author writing in English anywhere on the planet can become eligible.
"The winner of the Man Booker Prize from 2014 will be able to say 'I am the best in the English speaking world'," Booker Prize Foundation Literary Director Ion Trewin told reporters.
Organizers rejected suggestions that the prize would be overrun by U.S. authors and put British, Irish, Indian, Canadian and other Commonwealth authors at a disadvantage in the competition for a globally recognized prize which can mean the difference in sales between 300 books and 300,000.
Booker Foundation Trustee Helena Kennedy said organizers was aware of English language fiction writers, not only in America, but also in China, Israel and elsewhere who were excluded by the old rules from entering the 50,000 pound ($79,800) prize.
"To be claiming and being described as being the leading English language prize now in the world, it becomes strange that that would not include the United States of America," she said.
Jhumpa Lahiri, who was selected for this year's Booker shortlist won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, which is restricted to U.S. citizens only. She was born in London, grew up in the United States. Some of the other 2013 shortlisted authors live and work in the United States.
Trustee Chairman Jonathan Taylor pointed out that Jim Crace was the only British author selected for the 2013 shortlist, which included authors who reside in the United States.
The prize judges considered 151 books for 2013, which were read by the entire judging panel before the long and shortlists were announced.
Six tales from gold-rush New Zealand to Zimbabwe, the English countryside and elsewhere on the planet were shortlisted for this year's prize, which will be awarded on October 15.
Hilary Mantel wrote herself into the history books last year, becoming the first woman and first Briton to win the coveted Man Booker prize for fiction twice with "Bring up the Bodies", the sequel to her acclaimed "Wolf Hall".
The new rules will limit submissions to books originally written in English and published in Britain, regardless of the nationality of the author. They also limit the number of submissions individual publishers can make based on performance on the prize's longlist in the past five years.
Editing by Alison Williams