OverDrive Inks MS Reader Deals
Paul Hilts -- 9/11/00

OverDrive Inc., the Cleveland-based e-publishing software developer, is consolidating its position as the prime supplier for Microsoft Reader e-book tools. In recent agreements, OverDrive garnered Microsoft's certification to provide booksellers with digital rights management (DRM) for MS Reader, then announced it would distribute its ReaderWorks authoring software through Franklin Electronic Publishers Inc., of Burlington, N.J.

Microsoft has authorized OverDrive to provide e-book publishers, content portals and resellers with copyright protection based on Microsoft's digital asset server (DAS) technologies. Under the agreement, OverDrive developed MIDAS Technology, which connects booksellers to OverDrive's computers via the Internet so the booksellers can add DAS to their Web sites without purchasing their own expensive Web server hardware and software.

"MIDAS Technology provides an easy and affordable means to add DAS-based digital rights management to a Web site or online bookstore," OverDrive's president, Steve Potash, told PW. "Now e-retailers can secure, sell and protect their Microsoft Reader e-books, no matter what size their companies may be."

One of the first booksellers to install MIDAS is Powell's, headquartered in Portland, Ore. According to Darin Sennett, Powell's director of technology, "MIDAS permits us to add Microsoft Reader e-books to our new, used, rare and out-of-print lists without the large investment in new equipment, and without interruption to our Web site."

Earlier this month, Franklin announced that it will resell all three of OverDrive's ReaderWorks authoring tools: Standard, Publisher, and Software Developers Kit (SDK). Standard converts word-processing files into Reader-type files, known as ".lit" files, for the file-extension that distinguishes them, and will be available as a free download at Franklin's Web site, ReaderWorks Publisher adds DRM so that publishers can attach their own e-commerce rules to the Reader e-book files, and the SDK automates high-volume production of e-books.

Franklin recently unveiled its eBookman (News, July 10), a device that looks like a Palm, but with a much larger monochrome LCD screen. It runs MS Reader, the first time Microsoft's e-book software has been available on a monochrome device. Potash hailed the eBookman: "With its portability and price point [about $129 base], the Franklin eBookman represents a major step forward in e-books," he said.