RealTime IT News

Microsoft, Firms Embrace E-Books

So much for dog-eared pages and watermarks. Microsoft Corp. Tuesday teamed with Simon & Schuster and Barnes & Noble.com to test the offering of electronic books on pocket PCs.

In its latest play in e-books since opening an electronic book superstore with Barnes & Noble.com last January, Microsoft has arranged for 15 Star Trek titles, based on the television series, to be downloaded from Barnes & Noble.com for users of the Microsoft Reader application on the pocket PC.

Simon & Schuster has provided the titles, which will be offered for a limited time. The renowned publishing firm successfully tested the eBook waters when it published Stephen King's story, "Riding the Bullet," in electronic form. The company's new venture into e-publishing represents the first set of eBook titles outside the public domain to be made available for Microsoft Reader on the pocket PC, which rolled out in April.

Owners of pocket PC devices from Hewlett-Packard Co. and Casio Computer Co. Ltd. can download the eBooks here.

According to Dick Brass, vice president of technology development at Microsoft, the titles will give book lovers a taste of how reading will be enjoyed in the 21st century.

Microsoft launched its Reader program last August. The tool incorporates Microsoft's ClearType technology, which makes it easier to view small text.

Carrie Johnson, an analyst with Forrester Research, said that Microsoft's idea to put e-books on pocket PCs is a good one, and is also a sign that the software giant is quite ahead of its time.

"By using Star Trek titles, Microsoft has shown that it clearly understands its market," Johnson said. "Someone who uses the pocket PC might be more likely to read horror or science fiction, so the choice of Star Trek and Stephen King's book is a good one."

Johnson also said that getting consumers to purchase pocket PCs and to use e-books is a tough value proposition right now, but one that will gather speed in the next five to 10 years.

For Simon & Schuster, the move represents an attempt to further its new media interests.

"This offering in partnership with Microsoft reflects Simon & Schuster's strong commitment to advancing the state of the art in publishing," said Jack Romanos, president and chief operations officer, Simon & Schuster.

Tuesday also marked Time Warner's foray into e-publishing as the media giant said it would launch iPublish.com, an online community that will unite readers, authors, and editors, next year. The firm said certain AOL brands will become iPublish.com distribution partners and Microsoft would enter into promotional agreements for the venture.