Amazon books Microsoft as e-pub partner

Customized version of MS Reader will be at Amazon site

NEW YORK — Like a slumbering giant, Amazon.com is showing signs of life after a turbulent summer.

On Monday, the e-tail giant announced plans to open an online store for electronic books, retaining Microsoft as a major partner.

Amazon spokeswoman Ling Hong provided few details of the company’s plans, but move is likely to offer a shot in the arm to the fledgling e-books biz. Amazon says 75% of the readers of Stephen King’s e-novella “Riding the Bullet” downloaded the book from Amazon.

In recent months, however, company watched its stock price plummet while rival BarnesandNoble.com opened the first major e-bookstore and inked trailblazing partnership deals with Microsoft and New York’s most prominent e-publishers.

But Amazon has begun to strike back. It reached an agreement last month to handle transactions for Stephen King’s e-book, “The Plant.”

Amazon’s deal with Microsoft allows it to carry a customized version of Microsoft Reader, a program for reading and downloading e-books that’s gotten high marks from industry insiders. “It’s very clean and uncluttered,” Hong said.

As the preferred e-book format on Amazon, Microsoft Reader will be the first software program readers encounter when they choose a particular e-book.

Amazon is in the process of partnering with other software companies and is expected to showcase an array of e-books at launch time, but Hong wouldn’t say when that will be.

“We’re close but not there yet,” she said.

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