The New Yorker said it will offer its first three e-books Tuesday through Barnes&Noble.com. The works will also be available in the magazine's online version, set to launch in mid-February. The titles will include material that has been previously published in the magazine, including collections focusing on medicine, business and fiction.
With the Microsoft alliance, The New Yorker is attempting to capitalize on a market that is still considered to be in its infancy. Consumers have yet to embrace the new medium, and some smaller companies catering toward digital- or audio-book audiences have already felt the pain of recent dot-com casualties.
"I think we're just going to see how well (e-books) do," said Perri Dorset, a spokeswoman for the magazine. "This is just an extension of The New Yorker, and we're going to see how they do this year and we'll take it from there."
As companies and publishers face competition in the e-book industry for consumer attention and funding, analysts say Microsoft has captured a positive ally.
"The New Yorker has a great cachet," said Susan Kevorkian, analyst at IDC. "It's pretty much the symbol of contemporary writing, so it's an excellent organization for Microsoft to align themselves with."
Kevorkian said, however, that Microsoft and other e-book companies have yet to tap into the two biggest markets for e-books: professional and educational readers. Kevorkian said companies need to focus on these untapped markets because that is where e-books will take off.
"I think it's clear Microsoft is making an effort to broaden the depth of its content offerings," Kevorkian said. "But I'd still like to see them expand the depth."
Microsoft said it expects the deal to provide consumers with "worthwhile content."
"The New Yorker's standard for literary quality is unmatched in the magazine realm and many other literary realms," said Mario Juarez, group product manager for Microsoft's e-book team. "So for people who love to read and who are looking for something new and exciting on an e-book, we think this is great news."
Juarez added that any advance in e-books is a plus for all of the companies competing in the sector.
"We're in the earlier stages of building a really important industry that's going to have long-term ramifications," he said. "In a way, whenever any of us has some success, it really is good for the rest as well. We're all working together...to benefit consumers."