Turning Content Into Gold
Publishers join in Indeed, for publishers, new corporate alliances involving Microsoft are probably more significant than the products themselves.
In previous years, major publishers seemed reluctant to embrace e-books, in spite of their obvious potential to revolutionize the industry. Their reasons, both public and private, varied from copyright concerns to quality control to the understandable fear of losing market share to independent publishers and self-publishers that could result from widespread delivery of books via the Internet
With Microsoft's entry into the e-book market, it appears the dam has started to crack. New partnerships between Microsoft, Simon & Schuster and Random House were announced with great fanfare, including the electronic release of Michael Crichton's thriller Timeline and other e-books for the Pocket PC with Reader.
A major factor in this watershed was almost certainly the prior announcement that Microsoft and Xerox had jointly created a spin-off company, ContentGuard, to provide copyright protection for e-books and other online content. ContentGuard is designed to be the primary security feature of Microsoft Reader.
Concurrent with the announcement of alliances between Microsoft, Simon & Schuster and Random House, Time Warner announced it will launch a major new e-publishing venture, iPublish.com at Time Warner Books, in the first quarter of 2001. iPublish will include a suite of three "channels" iRead, iWrite and iLearn --providing a broad selection of online content, ranging from e-versions of major bestsellers, to works by aspiring writers, plus resources for writers and publishers.
iPublish's future also could be strengthened by an impending corporate relationship between its parent, communications giant Time Warner, and America Online. In combination, these factors could make iPublish.com the e-publisher to watch in 2001, with its well-conceived structure and the formidable resources of industry leaders behind it.
Is the release of the Pocket PC with Microsoft Reader the equivalent of a Philosopher's Stone for publishers? It's impossible to know until serious questions are answered. Will readers, writers and publishers embrace the presentation of reading material on small screens that change layouts depending on their shapes and sizes? Will consumers buy millions of new hardware devices and/or use new software to read e-books on their existing computers, so publishers can start to sell meaningful numbers of e-books? Will new DRM technologies prevent piracy of e-books?