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WH Smith jumps on ebook bandwagon

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WH Smith will launch an eBookstore next month with Overdrive, featuring thousands of titles if the press release is to be believed.

Overdrive - which has some experience in these matters - will provide the hosting, copyright protection, inventory and just about everything else. WHSmith will pay for it all and throw its brand into the rapidly growing ebook market.

This is a blatant bit of bandwagon jumping (Penguin announced the same thing just over a week ago). WH Smith has been very slow up the uptake with the whole Internet thing and hasn't even deemed the announcement of an eBookstore important enough to post the news on either its own Web portal WHSmith.co.uk or its corporate site.

Still, who cares? This is all weight behind the ebook format and further momentum. Naturally Overdrive was proud to be partnering with the award-winning WHSmith team, especially as it is at the forefront of the ebook industry. WH Smith, meanwhile, is apparently demonstrating its commitment to bringing innovation to interactive retailing.

More intriguingly, it would appear that this deal only allows for books in Microsoft's eReader format and not the more common Adobe eBook reader. A spokesman from Microsoft is even wheeled out. This is very unusual since Overdrive supports both formats. A WH Smith spokesman told us the company was looking to do another deal with someone else for the Adobe format and it will be ready in time for the launch. But it's still strange.

You'd think this may have something to do with the recent cracking of the Adobe format in the high-profile Dmitry case, but then just this week Microsoft's eReader has also been cracked. Apparently the CEO of Overdrive, Steve Potash, is in London at the moment (Overdrive is based in San Fran) but we are having trouble trying to get hold of him. We'll see what we can do. ®

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