Microsoft's release of the Pocket PC with e-book reader software may mark a crucial step in the development of electronic books. Here's why. By Danny O. Snow In ancient times, alchemists sought in vain for the mythical "Philosopher's Stone," fabled to transmute base metals into precious ones. The lure of turning lead to gold was irresistible, but the Philosopher's Stone proved elusive, and the alchemists faded away after centuries of fruitless searching. In recent times, publishers have been equally tantalized by the potentials of e-publishing: a way to make books available worldwide without printing costs, without warehousing and inventory, without shipping, without returns, and

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