The e-book still not a page turner

FRANKFURT -- Readers still have no real appetite for electronic books and it could take up to three years before computerized titles have a major impact on the publishing industry, according to an analyst's report on Friday."Manufacturers try to make e-books as much like conventional printed titles as possible but the fact remains that the old-fashioned book still does its job very efficiently," said Bob Broadwater, managing director of the U.

FRANKFURT -- Readers still have no real appetite for electronic books and it could take up to three years before computerized titles have a major impact on the publishing industry, according to an analyst's report on Friday.

"Manufacturers try to make e-books as much like conventional printed titles as possible but the fact remains that the old-fashioned book still does its job very efficiently," said Bob Broadwater, managing director of the U.S. investment banking firm Veronis, Suhler and Associates.

The report was released in Frankfurt at the world's largest book fair which this year has attracted 6,600 publishers from a record 115 countries.

Printed word still ahead
About 80 percent of all global rights deals are concluded at Frankfurt where one in four exhibitors comes from the electronic media, who are greeted with open arms by the organizers.

The report concluded that the printed word was far from being run off the information superhighway by computerized books.

"For any technology to capture the public imagination, it has to be a quantum leap on what went before," said Broadwater.

Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq:MSFT) is trying to overcome consumer reluctance with its new Microsoft Reader, software that allows files formatted for print to be displayed or downloaded on a printer. The pages are sharp, clear and easy to read.

But the report estimated that electronic books "will not have much of an effect on the book industry before 2003."

Not so bright outlook?
The industry forecast showed that in 1998, U.S. spending on consumer books reached $16.85 billion after achieving an annual growth rate of four percent since 1993.

It estimated expenditure would reach $22.49 billion by 2003, having grown at 5.9 percent. But new reading technology is not expected to grow at such an impressive rate.

The Internet has proved to be a major ally of the publishing industry with online firms like Amazon.com boosting sales of conventional books at heavily discounted prices to the "surfing shopper" reaching for their screen at home.

But, the report argues, the outlook for electronic books in a paper-free world of tomorrow is not so bright.

"In the near-term it is hard for us to see the near-term imperative behind the e-book," Broadwater told Publishing News at the fair.

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