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[BKARTS] E-Books



See last paragraph. p.

Technology - Reuters
Bubble Bursts for E-Books
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By Paul Majendie

FRANKFURT, Germany (Reuters) - At the height of the Internet boom, e-books
were hailed as the shining new tomorrow for publishers and paper books were
heading for the scrap heap.

But the bubble has burst and electronic books are still the poor relation
to the printed word with consumers preferring to turn the pages themselves
when they curl up by the fire with a good book.

"The limitless euphoria of the beginning belongs to the past," said Arnoud
de Kemp, a leading electronic publisher with the science and business media
firm Springer.

Three years after the e-book frenzy reached its peak, publishers in
Frankfurt for the world's biggest book fair of the year were in a much more
realistic frame of mind.

Last month, top U.S. bookseller Barnes & Noble Inc announced it was halting
e-book sales. "We did not see sales take off as we and many others had
anticipated," a spokesman said.

Targets have been sharply lowered and now publishers look on e-books as a
much smaller market which does still, admittedly from a very low starting
point, see steady growth.

"Expectations were widely overblown at the time of the Internet bubble,"
said British publisher Helen Fraser, managing director at Penguin.

"But there is a small market for them and it may grow as different reading
devices appear on the market. Sales do go up month by month," she told
Reuters.

She said if Penguin sold 40,000 copies of a printed book, it would
typically shift 4,000 audio books of the same title and 400 e-books.

In the technological battle to find the perfect way to read electronic
books on your palm-top or personal computer, competing formats have put the
consumer off.

David Steinberg, president of corporate strategy and international in New
York with HarperCollins, said: "There was a format war. They compete and
are not compatible. That creates resistance."

"Three years ago, there was a huge amount of hype but we did not get caught
up in it. We steered away from digitizing all our works and dumping them
into cyberspace," he told Reuters.

He said e-books, still a tiny part of the overall business, have a "30
percent plus" annual growth rate with HarperCollins putting out the
complete works of thriller writer Agatha Christie electronically.

But the reader's love affair with the printed word is far from over
because, as Chris Barnard, technology analyst at IDC consultancy,
concluded, "One problem is that e-books are up against a very established
technology, namely books. And most people are very happy with that
technology."

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