Publishers bank on eBooks

August 29th, 2000

This week, two software powerhouses took electronic publishing to the next page. Yesterday, Adobe Systems announced a new partnership with to promote and distribute books written in Adobe's PDF technology. Adobe also announced the acquisition of Glassbook, an electronic book software manufacturer.

Electronic books, or "eBooks", are special computer files that contain the text of a printed book. They are viewed using special software such as Microsoft's Reader or the Adobe Acrobat Reader and its PDF file format. There are also small eBook viewing devices presently available, including the Glassbook Reader and Nuvomedia's Rocket eBook

"PDF has no peer in duplicating the printed page, and readers know it," CEO Stephen Riggio, told Riggio also feels confident that electronic books will become a major player in the book industry. "In five years," he said, "there will be a digital copy of every book in our warehouse."

Ironically, this announcement came on the same day that software giant Microsoft announced a partnership with, which will offer a selection of books readable on a customized version of Microsoft's Reader software. Interestingly, Microsoft had already forged a partnership earlier this year with involving the Reader software.

The publishing industry has recently been showing increased interest in electronic books. Major publishing houses such as Penguin Putnam, HarperCollins, Bertelsmann, Simon & Schuster and Time Warner Books have made deals with Microsoft to transform thousands of titles into electronic versions. And, earlier this summer, horrormeister Stephen King became the first major author to distribute his work electronically, first with the novella Riding the Bullet and currently with the serial The Plant.

Online bookseller has also made major advances in electronic publishing, launching this summer to distribute thousands of titles using the Adobe PDF format. And software already exists to enable handheld computers like the Palm Pilot and Windows CE/Pocket PC to display ebooks.

This new technology is poised to revolutionize the publishing industry, in a similar way to how the MP3 format is shaking up the recording industry. "My friends, we have a chance to become Big Publishing's worst nightmare," said Stephen King on his Web site.

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