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More Publishers Eye E-Books

In the latest development of its electronic book strategy Microsoft Corp. Wednesday won over more than 30 book publishers for its production launch program.

Traditional college and mainstream publishers will dispense more than 800 of their books for Microsoft Reader when it launches later this summer. eBooks will also be offered for sale in barnesandnoble.com's upcoming e-bookstore.

The production launch program offers publishers, Microsoft and other industry partners an early opportunity to test the functionality of Microsoft Reader and its conversion and production tools. The book titles made into e-books through the program cover a broad range of subjects, from contemporary fiction to self-help, travel and other nonfiction books.

All books available for sale at the launch of the barnesandnoble.com eBookstore will run on Microsoft's new Reader software, which features ClearType, an innovation that improves the clarity of text displayed on Windows-based PC and Pocket PC devices.

"We have been able to develop production scenarios and a wide range of layout and content requirements that could only have been possible by working with books in print that are now being widely distributed, rather than public domain works that are already available in electronic formats," said Jeff Alger, group program manager of eBooks at Microsoft.

While Microsoft will benefit by gaining access to titles in virtually every genre, the deal shows that traditional publishing firms are taking steps to embrace new media. Some of the more prestigious publishers participating in the launch include academic firms such as Yale University Press, Cambridge University Press and Columbia University Press.

"In this new century, many of our new customers will be reading chapters and whole books in digital rather than printed form. AMACOM's goal is to make our books available to customers around the globe in as many formats as possible," said Rosemary Kane Carlough, vice president of Intellectual Property and Web Strategy at the AMACOM Publishing Division of the American Management Association.

Microsoft Wednesday also lassoed publishing software maker Quark to help in its production scheme. The companies plan to work together to build a Quark XTensions software module for avenue.quark -- an enhancement to QuarkXPress that allows printed content to be repurposed for the Web and other media outlets.

Microsoft hopes QuarkXPress 4 will easily convert content to Microsoft Reader format for multiple devices.

The deal is the second eBook play in as many weeks. Last Tuesday, Microsoft teamed with Simon & Schuster and barnesandnoble.com to test the offering of electronic books on pocket PCs.

In that deal, the behemoth arranged for 15 Star Trek titles to be downloaded from Barnes & Noble.com for users of the Microsoft Reader application on the pocket PC.



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