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U.S. publishers are e-book bound

Major U.S. publishing houses are laying the groundwork for digital book sales, although the technology may be far ahead of the demand.

    Major U.S. publishing houses are laying the groundwork for digital book sales, although the technology may be far ahead of the demand, analysts said.

    Simon & Schuster today unveiled a list of electronic books that will be published this fall, including titles from Stephen King, V.C. Andrews and Howard Kurtz. The e-books will be available on multiple platforms, including Microsoft Reader, Glassbook, Gemstar's Rocket eBook and SoftBook, NetLibrary's Peanut Press, and Softlock.com.

    "Each of these books has an identifiable audience that we believe we can reach--both early adopters and new e-book readers who will help expand the marketplace," Jack Romanos, president of Simon & Schuster, said in a statement.

    Viacom-owned Simon & Schuster isn't alone in its quest for customers. Penguin Putnam, which has already launched a pilot program offering books online, announced a partnership yesterday with digital service provider Lightning Source.

    Lighting Source provides book publishers a secure way to deliver e-books by offering digital rights management services. The company said it also has deals with Simon & Schuster and Time Warner.

    While book publishers may be geared up to enter a new editorial marketplace, they first have to jump a major hurdle. The success of e-books will depend upon whether consumers are ready to accept and adapt to reading books in a new format.

    "There's something to be said about opening up a book and flipping through a cover and sleeping with it. It's a behavioral effect," said Cyber Dialogue analyst Ed Lopez. "It's going to be a task to convince the consumer to read a full novel online."