December 17, 2003 2:37 PM PST

Adobe opens e-book store

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Software publisher Adobe Systems made a surprise move Wednesday to revive the faltering e-book market, opening its own online store.

The Adobe Digital Media Store offers books from major publishers such as HarperCollins Publishers, Simon & Schuster and Random House, plus links to electronic versions of publications such as Popular Science and The New York Times. All are published in Adobe's Portable Document Format (PDF), the company's widespread standard for the electronic presentation and exchange of documents.

James Heeger, Adobe senior vice president, said in a statement that since PDF is the dominant format for e-books, it makes sense for Adobe to consolidate available content. "The Adobe Digital Media Store showcases the huge amount of compelling content now available in Adobe PDF format and provides publishers and producers of digital content with a vital, innovative new distribution channel, through Adobe Reader," he said.

Once touted as the future of publishing, e-books--digitized books that can viewed on PCs, handheld computers and specialized reading devices--have yet to gain a significant share of the market. The format suffered a major blow in September, when book seller Barnes & Noble announced that it was dropping sales of e-books from its online store. Barnesandnoble.com had sold titles in both PDF and Microsoft Reader formats.

In a recent interview with CNET News.com, Adobe CEO Bruce Chizen blamed ill-fitting hardware choices for the slow adoption of e-books. "Until there is a device that has a similar value to what a book has, the e-book market will continue to be nascent," he said. "Today, to get a good e-book experience, you have to spend hundreds of dollars on a reading device, one that can only be read in certain environments because of lighting conditions; a device that has to be re-energized quite often, because the power consumption isn't there yet; and a device that isn't very durable."

Adobe is operating the new store in conjunction with Content Reserve, an electronic publishing specialist whose OverDrive service handles storage, delivery and transaction processing for electronic documents. Besides working with major publishers, Adobe is encouraging independent submissions of content ranging from technical reports to maps.

 

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