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Textbook publisher sees future in e-books

Harcourt College Publishers inks a deal with e-book company goReader to offer electronic college textbooks.

Harcourt College Publishers said Wednesday it has inked a deal with e-book company GoReader to offer electronic college textbooks.

Harcourt, a publisher of higher-education textbooks, said the titles will be available on GoReader's portable electronic device, also dubbed GoReader. The titles will first focus on business and science textbooks; Chicago-based GoReader hopes to expand its titles in the future to also include law and other graduate titles.

The partnership is one of many attempts to interest consumers in e-books. Many publishing giants, such as Random House and Simon & Schuster, have been concentrating on providing fiction and nonfiction titles, but e-books have been slow to attract a mainstream audience.

"I think the key in all this is that GoReader is targeting what is currently an underserved market for dedicated e-books--that being students," said Susan Kevorkian, analyst at IDC. But, "it's critical that GoReader work with publishers to deliver a broad variety of content in order to speed adoption of the device."

The e-book company said it hopes to replace regular textbooks, which require frequent updates, and reduce the pounds of books that students lug around. GoReader said its device replicates the traditional textbook but weighs less than five pounds and holds more than 350 textbooks. The device also features multicolor highlighting, note-taking and bookmarking on a 7.3-by-9.7-inch color screen, which is comparable to the size of a traditional textbook.

GoReader Chief Executive Rich Katzmann said his company's device lets people download other popular e-book titles as well as textbooks. The GoReader also comes with its own digital-rights management technology that prevents unauthorized sharing.

The company said the reader, planned for release this summer, will retail for $400 to $500; each title would be 25 percent off the price of a physical textbook.

Students "can put every book they need for a four-year degree into the one device," Katzmann said. "We found in the higher-education (arena) that students do not enjoy the long lines at the bookstore. They don't enjoy how heavy these books are and carrying around these massive backpacks, so we look at the solution as being an e-book."

IDC's Kevorkian said that GoReader is unique among device manufacturers since it specifically targets students, who are more accustomed to getting information off a screen. But GoReader must work with more publishers to have a better chance at reaching an audience for its device.

GoReader "would be more of a natural fit with students than with the older age groups," Kevorkian said. "But content is going to be key in driving the whole dedicated e-book device market in general."