Microsoft, R.R. Donnelley Push eBook Development

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R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co., Chicago, and Microsoft Corp., Redmond, CA, will partner to provide consumers access to a developing database of tens of thousands of electronic book titles accessible via Microsoft's Reader Software, a new application for delivering books online.

Neither company offered plans for embedding commercial content into electronic books, but the ability for companies to cobrand or target messages to readers via their computers takes the use of the Web as a distribution system to a new level. And it presents challenges to manufacturers of electronic book readers or content, who likely will feel threatened by Microsoft's foray into the marketplace.

The eBook business has been growing steadily over the past five years and publishers have expressed more willingness to work with electronic book publishers and manufacturers of reader hardware. A key stumbling block, however, has been the lack of high-powered companies willing to coordinate the technology.

This deal eliminates that problem. Microsoft will license key technology tools, including digital rights management technology to Donnelley, and Donnelley will work with partners to convert print titles into electronic titles that conform to the Open eBook specification.

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