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Monday, 20 August, 2001, 17:57 GMT 18:57 UK
Penguin enters e-book market
Gwyneth Paltrow plays Emma
Will Jane Austen's Emma capture e-readers?
Two hundred e-books are to be published online by book giant Penguin in September.

The move, announced by Penguin's owners Pearson, will represent the biggest digital book list yet published in the UK.

The list will include Penguin classics such as Jane Austen's Emma, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Henry James' Daisy Miller.

It will also offer other books aimed at younger readers - who, publishers say, feel more comfortable about reading on-screen.

Matthew Kneale
Kneale's next book Mr Foreigner is due for publication in 2002
The list will include Junk by Melvyn Burgess - whose latest book, aimed at young teenagers, Lady, My Life As A Bitch is proving controversial.

Burgess is excited at the prospect, but unsure about the outcome of the move.

"It's fantastic and I hope it will open up a new audience," Burgess told BBC News Online, adding that the audience for his books tend to be "so easy with technology" that it might pull in new readers.

"But as to what it will be like I just don't know, its a bit of a new adventure," he said.

Whitbread-prize winning novel English Passengers by Matthew Kneale is also to be one of the books on the list and the author professed himself "delighted".

Melvin Burgess
Burgess: Controversial books for children including Junk
"E-books are an exciting new way for the written word to exist, opening up all sorts of new possibilities for readers," said Kneale.

Younger writers and new books will also have a place.

Lisa Jewell, author of Thirtynothing and Ralph's Party, is to have her next book One-Hit Wonder published in e-book format and is excited at the prospect.

"I felt a real frisson of delight, not to mention a little thrill of pride," she said, describing her reaction to the project.

"To be involved at the start of something so new and exciting really is an honour."

Bookshelves
Books: Facing digital rivals
Customers will be able to download the e-books from the Penguin website or from retailers such as Amazon from 17 September.

The e-books can be read on lap top computers or Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) - or they can be printed off and read on paper.

"The autumn list will be the biggest of its kind yet published in the UK," a Penguin spokeswoman told BBC News Online.

The spokeswoman dismissed the criticism that e-books are unwieldy.

"They're instantly downloadable, if you have the software - Adobe Acrobat or Microsoft Reader - it will take two to five minutes.

'Early days'

"The books have a full text search facility, highlighting, annotation and bookmarking - and you can carry several volumes on one lap top or PDA," said the spokeswoman.

But Liz Bury, financial reporter for trade magazine The Bookseller, told BBC News Online that it was still "early days" for e-books.

"It's a toe in the water," she said.

"The hardware for reading this stuff is still not widely available in the UK.

"As the hardware takes off, customers will be more interested, so Penguin are looking at it long term."

The Penguin spokeswoman said that the publisher wanted to be present at the birth of the new market.

"The e-book market is still in its infancy, but we need to be there.

"It's predicted that it will become significant in the next five to 10 years," she said.


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23 Jan 01 | Entertainment
Portrait of a Whitbread-winning author
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Row over teen novel
05 Oct 98 | Entertainment
Frankenstein gets the Star Wars treatment
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