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eBook Digest
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A summary of the latest developments in e-publishing

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May 2001

May 1

MightyWords.com adds a new distribution partner, announcing that its catalog of digital titles, predominantly works on business and computing, will be available at a store linked to the more than 160 sites operated by internet.com, an Internet and information technology network.

Digital Goods, a content marketer for e-books, lays off most of its staff and begins to shut down, saying that it was unable to get funding to maintain operations. The company's statement: 

The Jerusalem Post reports more departures at Versaware

Wired.com's M.J. Rose reports on the apparent closing of Rocket-Library.com and also writes about the problems writing sites have had raising money through subscription drives. Steve Outing, featured in Rose's article, shares the lessons he learned from his pledge drive, giving advice to other site owners who might want to try the approach. His article is published at Content-Exchange.com, the site he runs. Articles: Rose and Outing.

May 2

Completing a stock transaction announced on September 27, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. acquires a 38.5% stake in Gemstar-TV Guide International: Dow Jones and Reuters.

"E-Book Devices Yet to Hit Bestseller's List," Gemstar leads the market, but has sold only 60,000 e-book readers since it began releasing them last fall. The company has 4,000 titles available for its devices, says CEO Henry Yuen. 

Adobe (adobe.com) plans to shut down its U.S. offices for the first week of July, reports AP. The cost-cutting measure will save the company about $4 million.

"Pulp Friction: Random House v. RosettaBooks": an article from the American Lawyer on Michael Boni of Kohn, Swift & Graf, the Philadelphia law firm representing e-publisher RosettaBooks in the case brought against it by Random House. 

Seybold Reports' E-Book Zone has two short articles on the cutbacks and other recent changes at e-library netLibrary and digital rights management company Reciprocal; following each report is the site's analysis of these developments: netLibrary and Reciprocal.

May 3

The Jerusalem office of e-publishing service Versaware appears to have laid off all of its remaining employees, according to the Jerusalem Post

Authorlink.com editor in chief Doris Booth interviews Steve Riggio, vice chairman of Barnes & Noble.com, on the company's new e-book imprint, Barnes & Noble Digital. Booth has published the interview with a lengthy analysis of the e-book market. One of the news items in Booth's report: Barnes & Noble will no longer stock titles from print-on-demand publishers in its stores, according to a letter sent to one such publisher in January. Articles: interview and report.

Next fall, Harcourt College Publishers will begin to offer textbooks that will link the books' text to the Web through print codes that can be read by the handheld CueCat scanning device, available for free from RadioShack. 

Kendra Mayfield of Wired.com writes about Octavo, a Silicon Valley firm that uses digital technology to produce PDF files of rare books. The company was founded by John Warnock, who co-founded Adobe.  

Stealth Press, a publisher of hardcover editions of out-of-print novels, has launched a viral marketing campaign that will test whether sending a free chapter of a book by email as a PDF file will get buyers for the hardcover title. 

May 4

"Commentary: E-Books Remain Niche Reads," the Meta Group, a research and consulting firm on information technology, contends that e-books will remain a niche consumer market for the next several years. 

The Narrative Press (narrativepress.com) launches a collection of first-person adventure books, offering works by pioneers, archeologists, and explorers in a paperback and a Microsoft Reader edition.

May 7

Random House responds to e-publisher RosettaBooks' brief; the case goes to court tomorrow: Publishers Weekly and CNET News.com.

Reporting on the Seybold Boston conference, Publishers Weekly takes a look at Adobe Acrobat 5.0. PW also notes that the next release of the Adobe Acrobat eBook Reader may feature reflowable PDF. 

News from PW: Night Kitchen has released its TK3 products, a multimedia authoring tool and a free e-book reader; Princeton University Press is starting a program, Digital Books Plus, that will let writers respond to readers and critics in a follow-up e-book after their books' original e-book and print publication; Simon & Schuster Audio has launched the first enhanced CD, also called CD+. The CD, Killing Pablo, combines an audiobook with video footage, and is about the hunt for the Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar. Articles: TK3, Digital Books Plus, and CD+.

Rough Guides (roughguides.com) selects Texterity, a digital conversion service, to convert more than twenty of its travel guides and phrase books into the Microsoft Reader format. The e-books will support the Pocket PC and will be featured in Microsoft's demonstration of its wireless and handheld device technologies, "The Mobile Experience Tour!" The tour (May 3-July 1) will go to eleven U.S. cities.

The online library ebrary.com is adding electronic facsimiles of rare documents from early American history to its collection. The titles are from the PDF library of historical books prepared by the DSI Publishing Group, a division of Digital Scanning Inc., a conversion and scanning service. The works include George Catlin's North American Indians and the journals of the Lewis and Clark expedition.

Colligo Corp., which creates electronic books on history and art, releases a multimedia CD series, the ULTIMATeBOOK (ultimatebook.com), for students. The first titles in the series: The Memorial War Book, a text on the Civil War, with photographs by Mathew B. Brady, period maps, illustrations from the era, and audio; Images of Stealth, a work on stealth aircraft, produced in cooperation with Lockheed Martin; Pioneers in Brass, a history of concert bands; and Mt. Baker, a title on the mountain in Washington state, with vintage maps and photographs. A CD on the impressionists is forthcoming.

May 8

"Dilbert" cartoonist Scott Adams self-publishes his first e-book, God's Debris, a 99-page story about metaphysical questions. The e-book portal eBookAd.com posts an audio interview with Adams, and publishes an article about the e-book, followed by Adams' press release. In the release, Adams tells why he decided to publish the work exclusively as an e-book. 

ForeWord Magazine launches a fee-based review site, ForeWordreviews.com. The service will start next month. M.J. Rose of Wired.com on some reactions to the concept of this new site. 

Targeting the mobile business market, Adobe (adobe.com) announces the availability of more than 200 e-book business titles that can be read on laptops with the Adobe Acrobat eBook Reader. The e-books are offered through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.com.

May 9

Reports on the May 8 hearing in Random House's copyright infringement case against RosettaBooks: Inside, Internet World, and the Washington Post.

"Tales from a Modern Gold Rush," an early employee of America Online, Julia L. Wilkinson, has published an e-book about the company, My Life at AOL. Her book is available as a PDF file and in print formats. The Washington Post article includes the terms of her self-publishing agreement with 1stBooks Library. 

Inside.com looks at trade publishers, including AOL Time Warner affiliate ipicturebooks.com, that are hoping to develop a market for e-books among young readers. 

Children's book publisher Scholastic (scholastic.com) and Microsoft launch an e-book science fiction series for children, Remnants. The first work in K.A. Applegate's series will be available as a free e-book in the Microsoft Reader format, and is being offered in five installments. The final installment will be on June 25, ten days after the book's print publication. The companies' marketing campaign for the e-book includes a sweepstakes to win one of ten Pocket PCs.

Fictionwise.com adds e-reads' catalog to the titles it distributes. Founded by the literary agent Richard Curtis, e-reads reissues out-of-print books by popular authors, such as Harlan Ellison and Janet Dailey, in electronic and print formats. The company's catalog includes nearly 1,400 fiction and nonfiction titles.

Franklin Electronic Publishers (franklin.com), the maker of the eBookMan, and Hungry Minds, the publisher of CliffsNotes and Frommer's Travel Series, announce that they will make the study and travel guides available for the e-book reader beginning this summer.

netLibrary (netlibrary.com) signs distribution agreements with Coutts Library Services, which serves the United Kingdom and North America, and with BTJ AB, which has offices in Scandinavia; the companies will work to distribute the online library's e-books to the libraries in their regions.

May 10

"Evolving E-Books Let Authors Answer Critics," the New York Times on the recently announced Digital Books Plus program from Princeton University Press. 

New French e-book site: BooKenSTOCK.com, a personal Web site with classic works from French literature available for free downloading. The books are usually offered in a couple of formats, including PDF, Mobipocket, and Microsoft Reader. The site has a forum on contemporary books and also features a short e-book news section. The site: 

May 11

Two useful articles in Pocket PC Magazine: tips on how to create e-books in the Microsoft Reader format and a step-by-step guide on how to access Audible.com's content on a Pocket PC: Microsoft Reader and Audible.

May 12

"The Future of Electronic Paper," the technology's greatest impact may first be on handheld devices, according to this opinion piece in ZDNet

  • For current e-publishing news, see the main page for the eBook Digest 

Donnali Fifield

Donnali Fifield is the author of William & Wendell: A Family Remembered (Binary Books) and the daughter and literary executor of William Fifield (The William Fifield Collection).


Cover of William and Wendell: A Family RememberedBinary Books logo

The William Fifield Collection logo


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