REDMOND, Wash., Nov. 4, 1999 — Microsoft and RR Donnelley & Sons Company today kept the literary light burning brightly at New York’s Algonquin Hotel, announcing a collaboration to put the world of literature at readers’ fingertips — instantly and electronically. In the same location where Dorothy Parker, George S. Kaufman, James Thurber, Harold Ross and other members of the Algonquin Roundtable — one of the most celebrated literary groups in American history — gathered in the 1920s to discuss their work and share ideas, the two companies announced plans that will undoubtedly enhance every reader’s access to his or her favorite novel, non-fiction title, book of poetry, college textbook, or medical professional book.
Using Microsoft Reader software, Chicago-based RR Donnelley, North America’s leading integrated content manager and printer of books, magazines, catalogs, directories and financial information, plans to create a massive repository of tens of thousands of electronic book titles. The company, a leading provider of printing and related services to the catalog, retail, magazine, book, directory, financial and healthcare markets, plans to make its
the central point for the production and distribution of electronic book titles from top U.S. publishers to top U.S. online retailers.
“I believe that together, Microsoft and RR Donnelley can help solve what I call a chicken-and-egg problem,”
said Mark Bayer, senior vice president and general manager of digital content services at RR Donnelley.
“Publishers have been reluctant to put their content into electronic format, because there haven’t been many eBook readers out there. On the other hand, eBook readers, who have been few in numbers to date, have not been able to turn to a great store of content. RR Donnelley can provide a larger marketplace opportunity; Microsoft can provide a large number of readers with a great reading experience using ClearType font technology and Microsoft Reader software; and publishers will, in turn, release more content for the larger number of readers. Microsoft can, better than anybody, make eBook readers happen in the marketplace.”
RR Donnelly’s commitment to the emerging eBook industry means that readers will soon have access to a broad range of high-quality titles. The creation of this
eBook production system is expected to result in sales of one million eBooks in its first year of operation. According to Bayer, the system will be available to its publishing customers by next spring.
“We are excited about the prospect of working with R.R. Donnelley to accelerate growth for the eBook industry,”
said Microsoft President Steve Ballmer.
“This agreement ensures that consumers will have access to a virtual bookstore of compelling and contemporary eBook titles that will look great on any laptop, PC or reader.”
Under the terms of the agreement, RR Donnelley will continue to work closely with its existing publishing partners to convert print titles into electronic books. RR Donnelley, in turn, will work with online retailers to offer these eBook titles to consumers. The company will license key technology tools from Microsoft for their eBook service offerings.
RR Donnelley brings industrial strength electronic publishing capabilities to the emerging eBook business. They will provide electronic publishers with the same essential set of services that print publishers have relied on for over a century. They make it easy for publishers to go electronic. They provide the scale that will eventually bring hundreds of thousands of eBooks to market. They make eBooks real,” said Dick Brass, vice president of Technology Development at Microsoft.
Today’s announcement follows other recent initiatives by Microsoft in the field of electronic reading. Last year, the company announced ClearType font technology, which significantly improves the clarity of type on the screen, making electronic books as easy to read as paper books.
More recently, Microsoft announced the development of Microsoft Reader, a software platform that includes ClearType. Microsoft Reader provides a clean, uncluttered display; ample margins; full justification; proper spacing, leading and kerning; and powerful tools for bookmarking, highlighting, and annotation.
“Our goal in developing this software application was to ensure that when someone reads a book using Microsoft Reader, what he or she will experience is very similar to what he or she would experience reading a paper book,”
Brass said. Microsoft Reader is expected to be available in the first quarter of 2000.
Microsoft and RR Donnelley also helped to establish an Open eBook standard that will make it possible to read any eBook from any computer device. According to Brass, it was critical for the success of the eBook industry to unite and provide publishers and consumers with a common standard to which all eBooks could be formatted. Without a common standard, publishers would have to format eBook titles separately for each electronic device. The Open eBook standard was announced in September at the second annual eBook conference, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Commerce. The standard was supported by a wide range of publishers, printers, eBook pioneers, software and hardware manufacturers, book distributors and retailers.
Microsoft also recently announced its sponsorship of the Frankfurt eBook awards, the first awards designed to honor literary achievements in the emerging eBook industry. The annual awards will recognize literary and technological excellence in electronic publishing. An international panel of judges — including educators, journalists, authors and other publishing-industry professionals — will determine the winning entries. Also sponsoring the awards are NuvoMedia, Inc., makers of the Rocket eBook, and SoftBook Press Inc., an early pioneer in digital publishing.
Mark Bayer does not view the emerging electronic book market as a signal that paper books are becoming obsolete. He does believe that the Microsoft/RR Donnelley partnership will open up markets where some content is not readily available.
“If you were in Germany or France and wanted to buy an American best-selling novel, you might not be able to find it. Once we’re up and running, if you lived in Berlin or Paris, you could get on the Internet, go to your retailer and they in turn could get the book that you requested,”
“Our partnership with RR Donnelley takes the eBook industry one giant step forward in bringing electronic words to life,”
said Dick Brass.
“What it means for readers is that they will have access to countless electronic books in a format that will look great. From a laptop, a personal computer or a hand-held device, readers will have instantaneous access to their favorite publications.”