Time Warner to Launch E-Book Venture

SAN FRANCISCO (05/24/2000) - In a bid to enter the electronic books arena, Time Warner Inc.'s Time Warner Trade Publishing announced Tuesday that it has created a new, Internet-only publishing division.

The online venture, called iPublish.com at Time Warner Books, will publish hundreds of original works, including full-length books, essays and short stories, in the 12 months following its launch early next year. Although the titles are meant to be downloaded and read on computers and portable devices, some may be published as print books, as well. The site also will sell electronic versions of between 400 and 1,000 backlisted titles.

IPublish.com will debut with original contributions from well-known authors such as David Baldacci, David Foster Wallace and Walter Mosley. However, the authors will pen short stories or essays rather than the full-length novels.

Time Warner's e-books will be available for sale at IPublish.com and other outlets, and they can be read on a variety of products, including reading devices like the Rocket eBook and portable devices such as Palm handheld organizers, and laptops. Gregory Voynow, iPublish.com's senior VP, declined to specify how much the e-books will cost, but he said they probably will sell for less than comparable print books.

Time Warner's new division will make it possible for topical books to reach readers faster than they did through the traditional publishing process, says Laurence Kirshbaum, chairman of Time Warner Trade Publishing. As an example, he cited one of the imprint's first releases, a business title written by James Champy titled E-Engineering the Corporation, which will be published in monthly installments. "You'll be able to read his words as they go from his word processor," Kirshbaum says.

But the electronic book business remains in an experimental stage. "The print business is going to be 99 percent of our business in the next couple of years," Kirshbaum says. "Let's not kid ourselves." Nevertheless, Voynow says the division hopes to break even by its second year.

IPublish also is planning to debut on its site several channels that it hopes will forge an online community of writers. On iLearn, writers and publishers will be able to share writing tips and insider information on the publishing business. Writers also will be able to submit manuscripts for review by others who visit the site. IPublish's editors will consider manuscripts that receive the best reviews for publication as e-books.

The site's reader feedback will enable the company to "publish what we know other people like," says Claire Zion, iPublish.com's editorial director.

Microsoft and Random House also are making inroads into the electronic book business. They announced on Tuesday that Michael Crichton's best-selling novel Timeline, published in hardcover in November, is now available as a free e-book at Barnesandnoble.com. Timeline is the first major title to be released for pocket PC devices using Microsoft's new electronic reading software, Microsoft Reader.

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