WH Smith and Microsoft have formed an alliance that will bring e-books to the high street in Great Britain. As a result of successful online trading, WHSmith.co.uk has been tempted into the arena of e-publishing, and so the WH Smith eBookstore will be opening by the end of the summer. It will feature a range of popular books from within its own stable: reference titles from Helicon and a range of mainstream titles from Hodder Headline. Since Helicon's acquisition by WHS in 1999, it has fueled the group's e-publishing activities and, from its base in Oxford, has also provided the necessary technical expertise. Helicon will also be responsible for digitizing Hodder titles for online licensing.

The e-books will be sold in Microsoft Reader format, and Microsoft's Digital Asset Server will provide security of payment. It remains to be seen whether WH Smith can buck the trend of lack of interest in e-books in the U.K.