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eBook evolution marches on

Another book publisher makes inroads toward the digital side of content.

The publisher Hachette Book Group USA, a member of the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF), has decided to go with the digital publishing organization's recommended standard for distributing books in digital format.

Starting with its December 2007 launch titles, HBG plans to release its bestsellers in the .epub eBook format, the company announced Friday.

The .epub is an XML file format for reflowable digital books that includes Open Publication Structure (OPS), Open Packaging Format (OPF) and Open Container Format (OCF).

Hachette claims to be the first book publisher in the U.S. to adopt the .epub format. It also said the move will allow them to create eBooks more efficiently.

But the publisher could also just be following the money, as eBook popularity begins to rise.

About $8.1 million in eBooks were sold in the U.S. for the second quarter 2007 compared with $4 million for the same quarter the year before, according to statistics released by IDPF and Association of American Publishers in August.

Since bestseller I Am America (And So Can You!) by Stephen Colbert has already been released digitally, the book will not be re-released in the new .epub format, April Hattori, vice president of communications for HGB, said in an e-mail.

The news follows reports that the Booker Prize Foundation is in negotiations with several publishers and the British Council to get permission to release books on the Man Booker Prize shortlist for free download to anyone in the world. In August, HarperCollins also announced that it would be offering free book excerpts for iPhone owners.