E-book Industry players seek effective business models
by Rose Blessing
"E-books are more than hype right now. E-books are definitely here," asserted Victor McCrary, group leader, Information Storage and Integrated Systems Group, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). McCrary was speaking at the Electronic Book 1999 conference held in Gaithersburg, MD, in September, the second such conference sponsored by NIST; he chaired the event. McCrary and many other speakers--including the reading-device makers--agreed that improved displays, lowered device weights and decreased power requirements are desired. "A lot of work still needs to be done in terms of (creating) a thriving electronic book industry," added McCrary. He credited SoftBook Press and NuvoMedia (makers of the SoftBook and the Rocket E-Book reading devices, respectively) with having paved the way for further industry developments. He also added that a pattern of industry cooperation has already been set, pointing to the September finalization of the Open E-Book text formatting standard as one standout accomplishment.
E-book reading devices are only a small part of the big picture, noted speaker Charles Geschke, co-founder, president and chairman of the board of Adobe Systems, who provided background on the development of Adobe's PDF technology and described Adobe's product development philosophy. The real trend to focus on, said Geschke, is "digital distribution of information on a worldwide basis."
Diverse groups attended the event; registered attendees included representatives of
* Makers of screen displays and disk storage.
* Publishers already selling books online in digital format, including Alexandria Digital Literature, Hidden Knowledge and Mind's Eye Fiction.
* Associations and public service organizations, including the World Bank, Library of Congress and the U.S. Department of Education.
* Educators and/or librarians, even from as far away as California, Louisiana and Montana.
* Traditional book and journal publishers including John Wiley & Sons; American Mathematical Society; Kluwer Academic Publishers; Harvard Business School Publishing; Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins; Materials Research Society; Time Warner; Macmillan Publishing; and Simon & Schuster.