International eBook Association Launched in Europe

REDMOND, Wash., April 19, 2002 — Microsoft Corp. today announced the launch of the International eBook Association (IeBA), a new eBook organization based in Europe that will support the worldwide eBook community and promote the growing opportunities and promise of eBooks.

The new association follows the pioneering work done by the International eBook Award Foundation (IeBAF), which will cease operations at the end of the month. While the new International eBook Association plans to announce its own set of eBook awards, the focus of the new associations work will be to address critical issues facing the electronic publishing community. Its principal goal will be to facilitate and accelerate the adoption of eBooks.

“The directors and staff of the IeBAF are to be thanked for their hard work promoting the possibilities of electronic reading. Alberto Vitale was a splendid and energetic chairman, and the Frankfurt eBook awards served a very important role,”
said Dick Brass, vice president of Technology Development at Microsoft.

But as the eBooks industry evolves past its first critical years, the need for large monetary awards to attract interest and attention has been replaced by the need to address commercial and technological issues.

“eBook sales are expanding, and some publishers report double-digit year-to-year growth,”
Brass continued.
“However, we must work hard if the industry is to see eBooks that regularly sell hundreds of thousands of copies, as Stephen Kings Riding the Bullet did two years ago. At this stage, we believe creating an ongoing force aimed at eliminating barriers to acceptance will help the industry move forward faster than putting these resources into big prizes. We still believe its valuable to recognize excellence in eBook publishing, and I believe the IeBA will continue to promote awards in the United States and Europe. But the focus of the new association will be on policy and industry progress, not prizes per se.”

The tasks facing the new association include commercial initiatives, including working with the European Union and member countries to rationalize widely varying taxation and regulatory policies that are slowing the diffusion of eBooks. There are also important technology issues, such as readability and display quality, that can be addressed by a broader understanding of the ergonomic requirements for immersive, book-length reading. To improve the acceptance of eBooks, the new organization will work toward improving the electronic reading experience itself.

Although Microsoft has taken the lead in organizing the new group, as it did in 1998 with the Open eBook organization that championed publishing standards and in 1999 with the IeBAF Frankfurt prize, the newly formed IeBA aims to be a neutral representative of the electronic publishing industry and its issues. As an inclusive focal point for a diverse, international group, the IeBA is open to interested members of the publishing industry, both electronic and print.

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