Electronic books are expected to make their debut at Chapters as early as this fall. Rick Segal, president of Chapters' Internet division, told PW that he is anticipating a fall launch for the Rocket eBook hardware and software. Eventually, buyers will be able to download books from the Internet at their local Chapters bookstore. Segal plans to install kiosks with Internet stations at Chapters stores across the country.

The cost of the hardware is still an issue. Segal admitted that the estimated retail price of C$900 is too expensive for most Canadian buyers, but said that he is trying to find ways to bring down the cost.

Chapters is not committed to the Rocket eBook alone and will sell the products of its competitors, such as SoftBook, if there is a consumer demand. "I'll sell what the customers tell me they want," Segal said.

Chapters Internet plans to offer U.S. and Canadian titles for the electronic books -- essentially any title, as long as it is formatted for the hardware.Currently, it plans to offer five Canadian titles already published as conventional books by McClelland &Stewart. The books were chosen by M&S for their quintessentially Canadian content. George Goodwin, vice-president of corporate development of M&S, envisions having another 25 to 30 titles available by the end of summer.