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.

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