Turning Content Into Gold
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 without waste.
Of course, the lure of these possibilities is irresistible to publishers, yet to date, the right combination of hardware, software and marketing to make e-publishing viable has proven as elusive as the Philosopher's Stone.
Enter the Pocket PC with Microsoft Reader, now publicly available. Some experts are convinced the equivalent of the Philosopher's Stone is now within the publisher's grasp, while others believe viable e-publishing remains a tantalizing myth. Either way, the release of these new products, and a flurry of important new business alliances related to them, represent an important development in the history of publishing.
This article will explore the strengths and weaknesses of the Pocket PC with Microsoft Reader, as well as offer a few examples of how publishers are responding to its release.
Hardware & Software
The term "Pocket PC" applies to a hand-held computer with myriad uses, including reading e-books, as well as word processing, e-mail, Web browsing, audio files, etc.
Currently there are several devices on the market, including Casio's Cassiopeia; Compaq's iPAQ; Hewlett-Packard's Jornada; and Symbol's PTT 2700. They run under Microsoft's Windows-powered Pocket PC operating system, a mini version of Windows CE. Although it's intended as a multipurpose device, the Pocket PC is of special interest to publishers because of its potential as a tool for reading e-books with better performance than earlier products, as explained below.