E-Publisher to Close

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E-publisher MightyWords Inc., which is half owned by Barnes & Noble.com, has announced it will cease operations as of Jan.12.

As a result, MightyWords' 23 employees will all lose their jobs. A statement on the site claims that no part of MightyWords, including its customer information, is for sale.

"There just weren't enough sales," Chris MacAskill, MightyWords founder/CEO, said in an Associated Press story.

"The closure of the MightyWords site indicates that we did not believe the market for digital content was large enough to support a separate company," said Steve Riggio, Barnes & Noble.com's vice chairman, in a statement.

One of the reasons MightyWords failed was its product line, according to Daniel O'Brien, senior analyst at Forrester, Cambridge, MA.

By specializing in "30, 40, and 50-page documents … they were trying to establish a whole new category of document, something that fell between article and book length," O'Brien said. "They just didn't have enough documents that people would go out of their way to obtain."

MightyWords also had no big-name authors or brands to drive demand at the site.

Meanwhile, Barnes & Noble.com claims it is not giving up on e-publishing.

"We do believe that e-books and other forms of digital content are here to stay and will continue to market and sell them through Barnes & Noble.com," Riggio said.

Barnes & Noble.com is "reviewing" MightyWords' content to decided what if any of it to begin selling through its e-book division, Barnes & Noble digital, according to a spokeswoman.

Barnes & Noble.com carries more than 4,000 e-book titles. In September, it published an exclusive book by Dean Koontz, The Book of Counted Sorrows. The spokeswoman would not give sales numbers for The Book of Counted Sorrows, but said e-books generally sell on a "much smaller scale" than paper books.

"It is a developing market," said the spokeswoman, Carolyn Brown.

Horror author Stephen King single-handedly put e-books on the map in March , 2000, when 400,000 copies of his 66-page e-book, "Riding the Bullet," were downloaded or ordered the day of its release.

It was the first time a best-selling author published a major piece of work exclusively in electronic format, but since then a hurdle for e-book sellers has continued to be the low penetration of e-book reading devices, largely because of the high prices for the devices. Another is that consumers still reportedly balk at having to pay for online content.

"It's taking consumers a long time to adapt," MightyWords' MacAskill told AP.

Barnes & Noble.com became half owner of MightyWords in Sept., 2000, when it acquired Fatbrain.com Inc., of which MightyWords was a former subsidiary, for $64 million.

Previously in June 2000, Barnes & Noble.com had invested approximately $20 million for a 30 percent equity stake in Santa Clara, CA-based MightyWords.

"Everyone overpaid back then," O'Brien said.


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