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Internet

The Net as venue--for books

Web sites are targeting bookworms as evidenced by two upcoming online page turners.

Web sites are targeting bookworms as evidenced by two upcoming online page turners.

Microsoft Network is giving subscribers rock 'n' roll in its deal to seize a piece of the online entertainment market. On Monday, MSN's Music Central will launch an online serialization of Fred Goodman's book The Mansion on the Hill: Dylan, Young, Geffen, Springsteen, and the Head-On Collision of Rock and Commerce.

A lesser-known company, called WebMovie, said today that it will launch four products that include the full text of novel, along with storyboard of images that change as the reader browses. A preview of one novel a sci-fi tale called Generation War is available now. Real actors, video, animation, sound, and music are used to create the multimedia version of the story. The site is supported by ads.

Web entertainment is one of the most heavily invested areas of online development. Companies like Microsoft are trying to rope in Netizens anyway they can, from spooling out nationwide city entertainment calendars to producing digital books like Mansion on the Hill.

Books are a given for the widely text-based Web, but short attention spans and weary eyes may keep people from downloading lengthy novels. That's why WebMovie and Microsoft are trying to enhance their books with multimedia.

MSN is trying to capture the Net audience as well as its subscribers. Anyone can get a meaty synopsis of Mansion on the Hill, but only MSN members will be able to read the entire multimedia feature, a move designed to keep the online service's Net community at home as other entertainment offerings proliferate. Music Central will present the serial over four weeks and in archive for 30 days after the final installment.

The rock 'n roll tip will also help MSN harness traffic. Goodman, who has covered music for 20 years and has been a magazine editor at Billboard and Rolling Stone, chronicles the rock 'n' roll scene from the 1960s to the present, including more than 200 interviews with musicians such as Bob Dylan and the Eagles. The book also looks at the evolution of the billion-dollar music business.

Sam Sutherland, senior editor for Music Central, said visitors can expect to find the same amount of text from Goodman's book as they would in a traditional magazine excerpt: 8,000 to 10,000 words. The serial will also include artist biographies, song clips, and interview sound bites.

Sutherland said the integrity of the book will not be overshadowed by the bells and whistles of the Net. "This is the first chance Music Central has had to honor the original text product and enhance it with multimedia. On the same token, we don't want to necessarily drown it in a multimedia experience that detracts from the actual content."

Another Web site that builds on the popularity of books is The Case. It's a weekly murder mystery launched a year ago, but now it's part of the Mystery Network group of sites.

The Case has sections such as Twist, a mystery with a shocking ending every Monday; Solve-it, a scenario sent to members via email where users who solve it get a prize; and Mysterious Photo, where viewers write a short mystery about a picture.