Unlike the majority of electronic book producers, who have concentrated on handheld readers, Len Kawell, cofounder of Glassbook, in Acton, Mass., is doing things a little differently.
"The key is to sell books," he told PW recently. "The customer wants lots of titles -- and wants them in a format that plays on whatever form of reader he has. So Glassbook EBX software will run on SoftBook, or on Rocket eBook, or Librius, or on a desktop or laptop PC." Glassbook (like one other e-book unit, the Everybook Reader) uses Portable Document Files and recreates the exact look of the print book.
Kawell, like other e-book producers, emphasized that copyright protection for digital texts is essential. "We're a software company, so we're used to solving problems like that," he said. But Glassbook software has one advantage over other digital texts. Much like a print book, a Glassbook text can be loaned without losing its copyright encryption.
"If you buy an e-book produced with Glassbook software," Kawell explained, "you can download it to a friend's computer so he can read it. You can even define a time for the loan. During that time, the original buyer can't use the book; at the end of the loan period, the borrower's digital copy expires, and the original buyer's text is turned on again."
Glassbook is also developing its own hardware, an e-book reader called the R2 that will serve as a demonstrator for potential customers who haven't seen an electronic book reader. The R2 features a full-color 6"x9" screen and should be on the market by the end of summer.
Although Glassbook will make money from royalties on R2 hardware, Kawell expects that his main business will come from selling the software to individual readers or contracting with computer manufacturers to bundle the software in new machines. Glassbook software will come in a robust version that allows creation of personal libraries and databases and has other capabilities and in a smaller version with fewer functions. For more information, visit the company's Web site, www.glassbook.com.