The final draft of the Open eBook Specification, a format for electronic book files, was approved by the B Consortium's authoring committee in a meeting in New York City last month; it is now prepared for a final vote for adoption five weeks from now. Based on the HTML and XML file formats, the B standard would allow book publishers to convert their texts from print to a single electronic form for use on many types of hand-held readers and on PCs.

'Without a common standard,' according to Dick Brass, v-p for emerging technology at Microsoft, a member of the consortium, 'publishers would have to format e-book titles separately for each electronic device, and the number of titles available for any device would be small. That would be a recipe for disaster.'

If all g s well in the final trials, by mid-July, the draft will become the Open eBook Specification, version 1.0. The Open eBook Consortium is open to any firm interested in non-proprietary standards for electronic books. For more information on the Open eBook initiative and the B file format, check the group's Web site at