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Glassbook lends e-books a hand

The fledgling electronic book publishing industry gains another entrant, Massachusetts-based Glassbook, which aims to provide a software infrastructure for the market.

The fledgling electronic book publishing industry has gained another entrant, Massachusetts-based Glassbook, which aims to provide a software infrastructure that will take books from the world of print to the digital domain.

Glassbook announced that it is developing software that lets publishers take books and make them available via the Internet to distributors and booksellers, who in turn make their titles available to consumers via Internet sites.

While most competitors in the e-book business, including NuvoMedia and SoftBook, are emphasizing the use of specialized handheld readers, titles using Glassbook's system will also be available on notebook PCs and Windows CE devices. Glassbook is also shopping around a standard hardware design for a reading device to consumer electronics companies, the company said.

Glassbook said the PC Reader software allows highlighting and annotation of text, the ability to search for specific characters, or access a built-in dictionary. Additionally, the company said the software enables the consumer to lend and borrow titles without violating copyright and royalty rights of publishers and authors, which could prove to be a key element in getting its system adopted.

The co-inventor of Lotus Notes and president of Glassbook, Len Kawell, has moved from the collaborative software arena to electronic publishing arena, where both markets need encryption technologies to protect documents. Here, too, he is likely to face off against software giant Microsoft.

Microsoft is already working with a number of publishing companies on establishing standards that will allow titles to be read on all machines using these standards. Common standards mean writers and their publishers could reach a wide audience without having to separately reformat their titles for each machine.

Glassbook, too, is making a push to turn its proposed Open Electronic Book Exchange industry standard for copyright protection and distribution. Kawell said his company's software will work with standard file formats defined by Microsoft's "Open eBook Publication Structure" as well as Adobe's Portable Document Format (PDF) files.