New Deals, New E-book Format from Reciprocal
Calvin Reid -- 11/13/00

As if there aren't enough e-book formats already, Reciprocal, a company known for providing electronic distribution and digital rights management for e-books, has announced plans to license a new e-book format designed for Palm OS devices and supported by Reciprocal's DRM and digital commerce services. The company also announced an agreement with Random House and the Terra Lycos Internet network to sell e-books online, and another pact with AMS, the distributor to warehouse clubs and superstores, that will enable AMS to offer e-book distribution, with digital storage, rights management and e-commerce services provided by Reciprocal.

Matt Moynahan, general manager of Reciprocal's publishing program, told PW that, contrary to reports, Reciprocal did not develop the new format. The new Palm OS e-book format has been licensed from Librius, a now defunct firm that had developed the e-book software for its own Millennium Reader, a now abandoned handheld e-book device. The former Librius company now runs Books2Read (, a Web site that has been offering downloadable e-books for PDAs and other handhelds. Reciprocal also offers e-books in Microsoft Reader and Adobe PDF formats.

Reciprocal also announced a new agreement with Terra Lycos and Random House to offer a selection of Modern Library titles as e-books (in all formats),with Reciprocal providing distribution, DRM and e-commerce support. Titles can be obtained through Lycos Shop and Lycos Entertainment ( Reciprocal is in discussion with other publishers and with major online retailers to add more content and more online retail outlets in 2001. And through its Affinity program, Reciprocal also provides services that allow high-traffic Web sites to offer retail transactions.

Moynahan told PW that Reciprocal is responding to "demands from the professional market" for short documents and reports in e-book form. Acknowledging the confusion over formats, Moynahan said, "We're not pushing a format. Consumers will decide which format they want." Moynahan claims that this new licensed PDA format offers better security and more useful features than the Peanut Press format for Palm OS devices. The encryption is "binded to the device," said Moynahan, securing the content in the same way that proprietary systems like Gemstar do. Moynahan said the new format supports images and imbedded fonts, allowing publishers to have more control over the design and presentation of e-books. The format also supports multiple languages. In addition, Palm users can use the transmitting function to beam texts they have purchased from one Palm device to another. The transmitted e-book will be readable once the borrower has obtained permission through a verifying Web site. The format supports the Open eBook file specifications and will allow consumers to read Reciprocal e-books on the Palm, Handspring, Sony, IBM or other Palm OS devices.

Reciprocal's agreement with Advanced Marketing Services will allow AMS and its subsidiaries and partners to distribute a wide variety of e-books. Reciprocal will allow AMS to act as a digital warehouse, with DRM and financial tracking. Reciprocal will offer e-books in the Microsoft Reader and Adobe PDF e-book formats to AMS clients.

"Our relationship with Reciprocal adds to the repertoire of services we are able to provide globally to both retailers and publishers," said Mike Nicita, CEO of AMS.