Also at Frankfurt, Microsoft made an e-investment announcement of a different sort -- that of a lucrative literary prize. The Redmond company has established the Frankfurt eBook Awards for the best digitized books available electronically and formatted according to the Open eBook standard.

Prizes will be awarded at the next Frankfurt fair and will include a $100,000 grand prize for the best book originally published in e-book form; four $10,000 prizes were also announced for e-books originally or eventually published in electronic form. Two more $10,000 awards will be given for best spoken-word or audiobook title delivered in digital form, as well as a technology achievement award for the advancement of electronic publishing. Questions remained, however, regarding who would receive the prize money; even a positive development like this may result in contract squabbles between author and publisher.

At Frankfurt, Microsoft's Dick Brass noted that the prizes' goal is to give more incentive for electronic publishing. In addition to money, the company is also trying to bring some much-needed literary credibility to the form by naming Alberto Vitale as chairman of the organization that will select the winners. (Eligibility rules and more will be available on the Web at sometime next month.)

Other e-book pioneers, NuvoMedia and Softbook, have contributed unspecified dollar amounts for the prizes. "While there are developments in the future that we might need to be concerned about, we're working closely with Microsoft to help build the market," Tom Morrow, a spokesperson for Softbook, told PW.

--C.R., P.H.,S.M.Z