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netLibrary Adds New Markets, Management, and Partnerships

Magazine article Information Today

netLibrary Adds New Markets, Management, and Partnerships

Article excerpt

CEO Kaufman will lead the implementation

A: veritable flood of press releases has poured forth recently from Boulder, Colorado-based netLibrary, announcing the appointment of former CFO Robert Kaufman as president and CEO, as well as a number of acquisitions, partnerships, and new market initiatives. Since the site launched just over a year ago on March 29, 1999, the startup has grown quickly, attracted key investors, forged relationships with prestigious publishers for content, and established a solid reputation as a provider of e-books and Internet-based content. Paula Hane talked with Kaufman by phone in early May about the company's progress and launch into new market areas.

Q: Let's talk about your success in the academic and public library markets, the place that netLibrary first started with some key contracts with library consortia. How many actual library clients do you have now?

A: Today we have signed contracts with libraries and consortia making our e-books accessible to more than 700 libraries. I think the patron base would be over 4 million end-users. We have seen not just significant business in e-book collections purchased, but also significant usage. A number, of customers have told us that e-book use is exceeding the use of the corresponding book in hard copy. Librarians are seeing a trend with their patron base--the younger Web-savvy consumers are coming to a library looking for digital content first. When I say come into a library, in a lot of cases that is often now through a Web site. There's a generation of kids who assume if it's not online, it's not there. The e-book product and service we provide to libraries rings very true and is compelling as libraries try to provide content that is relevant to their audiences. This has resulted not only in increased sales for us, but in repeat sales.

Q: I believe you are also providing consumer content for some hand-held devices through your purchase of peanutpress.com.

A: One of the issues with providing content for hand-held devices is that we need to go back to our existing publisher partners and negotiate to make their content available on those platforms for libraries. Librarians have actually asked us when we could provide content for their patrons to download to these Palm-type devices. It's now a matter of integration among peanutpress.com, our publisher partners, and us.

Our business was built with the notion that our mission was to help publishers propagate content in the same way as hardcopy books, and to provide to libraries and consumers the content they want on the exact platform they want. We just announced an agreement with Glassbook, so users can access our content via a Glassbook Reader. We're now working to secure arrangements with the owners of other reading devices and software platforms to ensure that we provide any e-book solution a user wants. The notion of being platform-agnostic is fundamental to what we do. We provide a level of copyright protection for publishers that is one step removed from the actual device. It's what we call "high-level digital rights management," which lets us structure agreements with Glassbook, Microsoft, and others.

Over the last year, companies like Glassbook have seen their business models change. Things have gone from trying to convince publishers to adopt the Glassbook protocol, to where Glassbook is trying to propagate their device among end-users and rely on partners like netLibrary to worry about the content. The marketplace has embraced our role as a kind of high-level rights-management provider and content solution provider for publishers.

Q: Are you actively working with the Open eBook Specification format?

A: Yes, we have one of the seven board seats of the OEB. The netLibrary e-book files that we create for publishers are OEB-compliant. We're very excited about what OEB is pursuing.

Q: Microsoft was one of the companies behind establishing the OEB specification. …

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