Amazon Teams with Microsoft for Electronic Books

Microsoft Corp. Monday moved closer to establishing its Microsoft Reader as the default format for distributing electronic books. The company announced that online retailer Amazon.com Inc. has selected Microsoft Reader as the "preferred format" for a future e-book store.

Microsoft Reader currently runs on Windows PCs and on the Pocket PC, with a Macintosh version on the way. It can be downloaded from www.microsoft.com/reader. According to Mario Juarez, Microsoft's marketing manager for emerging technologies, about 1,000 commercial titles are available for Reader.

As part of the deal with Amazon, Microsoft said it would create a customized version of Microsoft Reader that will allow customers to order books at Amazon from within Reader.

Amazon.com competitor Barnesandnoble.com already offers electronic books in the Microsoft Reader format, as well as for the competing Rocket eBook from NuvoMedia Inc. in Mountain View, Calif.

With Amazon.com, which currently doesn't sell e-books, also planning to support Microsoft Reader, "it's been adopted by two of the biggest booksellers on the Web, so it's almost a de facto standard," said Billy Pidgeon, an analyst at Jupiter Communications Inc. in New York.

Microsoft Reader has the advantage over competing technologies such as the Rocket eBook of not depending on a dedicated piece of hardware, said Pidgeon. "There are very few [dedicated e-book readers] out there, so the best place for digital text is on the PC, laptop or [personal digital assistant]," said Pidgeon. But he said the electronic book market is unlikely to show strong growth in the near future.

An Amazon spokesperson didn't return calls in time for this story.

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