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Barnes & Noble shelves e-books

The bookseller discontinues sales of the downloadable books, according to a statement on the company's Web site.

In response to the Sept. 9 report by Evan Hansen, "Barnes & Noble shelves e-books":

I suspect that the problem isn't so much that there's something inherently bad with e-books, but rather that the Microsoft and Adobe e-book formats and readers are poorly suited to the task.

The main problem is that they are trying to emulate the look and feel of a paper book, with high-quality fully formed letters, high-quality layout control and a "pagelike" display.

Unfortunately, the devices don't have large high-quality screens. They'd cost thousands of dollars if they did (besides being too large to fit in your pocket). On the other hand, the devices do have advantages paperbacks don't: You can establish a more or less unlimited number of bookmarks, link to comments or other documents on your handheld or tablet, and so on. For most books, the fine details of layout simply don't matter. It's more important that the text be readable on the device the buyer actually owns than that it be in Times New Roman Condensed 8 Point.

Rather than being good handheld book readers, these programs try to be paperback lookalikes, and fail. So people who buy the books don't come away with a good experience--which means you don't get many repeat buyers.

Peter da Silva Houston, Texas