Time Warner creates e-publishing unit

ipublish.com will be a stand-alone e-books business division -- one of the first from a traditional publisher.

NEW YORK -- Time Warner Inc. is creating a stand-alone electronic-publishing unit, according to an executive familiar with the plans, one of the first traditional publishers to make such a move.

The unit, called ipublish.com, will have its own editorial and marketing staff and will solicit books to publish just like the traditional units of Time Warner Trade Publishing, Little Brown and Warner Books. An announcement is expected Tuesday at a previously scheduled news conference.

A spokeswoman for Time Warner Trade Publishing declined to comment.

The strategy pushes Time Warner (twx) to the forefront of electronic book publishing under the unit's chairman, Laurence Kirshbaum, known in publishing circles as a Web-savvy executive. While other publishers have made alliances with online rivals -- Bertelsmann AG's Random House unit recently acquired 49 percent of online publisher Xlibris Corp. -- Time Warner's unit is more fully integrated in the company.

Like a paperback imprint within a publisher, for example, ipublish.com can solicit manuscripts by itself and also republish works produced by other parts of the company. Time Warner publishes writers such as Nelson DeMille and Larry King.

Time Warner is also expected to announce that it has signed up a series of partners to aid distribution of its electronic books. They include netLibrary Inc., Microsoft Corp (msft), Gemstar International Group Ltd., Ingram Industries Inc.'s book-distribution unit Ingram Book Group and barnesandnoble.com (bnbn). The unit will be headed by Greg Voynow, who has been spearheading Time Warner Trade Publishing's online operations.

Although consumer book publishers are trailing their colleagues in educational or technical publishing, many are waking up to the threats and possibilities posed by new electronic formats. The sector got a jump-start in March with the successful publication of "Riding the Bullet," a Stephen King novella that was published exclusively on the Internet by Viacom Inc.'s Simon & Schuster Inc.

Separately, Microsoft is expected to announce Tuesday partnerships with Random House and Simon & Schuster, according to people familiar with the situation.

Microsoft, a laggard in developing software for e-books, will announce it has secured exclusive rights to put some books in its Microsoft Reader format for a limited period of time. These include Michael Crichton's "Timeline," published by Random House's Knopf division, and a series of "Star Trek" books from Simon & Schuster.

The Microsoft Reader allows owners of compatible handheld computers to read e-books downloaded from the Internet. Spokesmen for Random House, Simon & Schuster and Microsoft declined to comment.


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