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BarnesandNoble .com to drive digital publishing

But does the public really want it?

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BarnesandNoble.com is planning to extend its digital publishing business and hopes to attract big-name authors by ramping up the royalties paid.

The bookstore today launched Barnes & Noble Digital, its e-publishing division.

The company says it will offer authors and agents 35 per cent of a e-tome's list price in royalties, a little better than the standard rate of 25 per cent.

But the future of digital books in general is still uncertain. After the Caesar of Horror, Stephen King, had to suspend publication of a novel in digital form after interest in the project waned, there are still questions to be answered about the public's appetite for electronic books.

Not so, reckons BarnesandNoble.com's. According to the New York Times, the company will be publishing an original digital book by best-selling horror author Dean Koontz.

It is also planning to publish - and charge for - out-of-copyright material. Acting chief executive Stephen Reggio said that the company would publish thousands of books with expired copyrights and was planning to charge between $5.95 and $7.95 for them.

Assuming, of course, that anyone who wants said public domain items doesn't rush over to the likes of Project Gutenberg, which distribute them for free.

With this in mind, it seems that the long-term success of the latter part of the project is dependent on the public's ignorance of the alternatives. ®

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