This story was written by Keith Dawson for the Industry Standard's Media Grok email newsletter. It is archived here for informational purposes only because The Standard's site is no more. This material is Copyright 1999-2001 by Standard Media.

E-Publishing Going Wide
Nov 21 2000 12:00 AM PST

Electronic books may not go mainstream for a few years, but they are finding niches and preparing to hit the big time.

The big news in electronic publishing today was an exclusive story in the Wall Street Journal by Matthew Rose and Nikhil Deogun (with additional reporting by Erin White). The reporters passed on the scoop from "people familiar with the situation" that Gemstar, the dominant maker of e-book readers - and the owner of TV Guide (dossier) - is in merger talks with Barnes & Noble (BKS). The reporters got a comment from the bookseller claiming that talks are under way but that a merger is not being discussed. Gemstar wouldn't comment for the story. Excited?

CNET's Gwendolyn Mariano noted the spread of e-books into a new publishing niche: braille. Yesterday Microsoft (MSFT) and Pulse Data announced plans to adapt Microsoft Reader software to Pulse Data's BrailleNote family of personal data assistants. By mid-2001 an upgraded BrailleNote, at a cost estimated from $3,400 to $5,000, should be able to present an e-book in either braille or spoken form.

Wired runs an occasional column called "E-Publishing Ink" by one M.J. Rose. (Could this be the same Matthew Rose who is on staff at the Journal?) Rose's column today explored corners of the e-literacy scene that other reporters don't frequent. While noting the reader for the blind, Rose also mused on Oprah Winfrey's impact on e-publishing. It seems that one of Oprah's book-club selections last Friday was - wait for it - an e-book reader, the REB1100 from Thomson Multimedia (manufactured under license from Gemstar). And Rose tipped plans for the first "m-novel" - a serial you can read on your mobile phone - from author Douglas Clegg, who wrote the first serial novel distributed by e-mail more than a year before Steven King distributed The Plant in electronic form.

Finally, ZDNet's Jesse Berst looked farther into the future of electronic publishing with a brief update on the two leading candidates vying to produce cheap and reusable "e-paper," Xerox PARC and Lucent. (E-Ink is providing the technology in collaboration with Lucent.) Berst claimed that we should see products coming out of both efforts within five years. That's about how long it takes to read Ulysses as an e-book. - Keith Dawson

Gemstar, Barnes & Noble Hold Talks About Combining Their Businesses
Wall Street Journal
(Paid subscription required.)

Oprah Gives A-OK to E-Books
Wired News

Microsoft to Translate E-Books Into Braille

E-Paper Here Sooner Than You Think