Information Today
Volume17, Number 3 • March 2000
Gemstar Acquires NuvoMedia, Inc. and SoftBook Press, Inc.

Gemstar International Group, Ltd. has announced the acquisition of two leading e-book companies, NuvoMedia, Inc. of Mountain View, California, maker of the Rocket eBook (, and SoftBook Press, Inc. ( of Menlo Park, California, maker of the SoftBook Reader. Gemstar developed and licenses the VCR Plus+ system, offers electronic programming guide information, and is the new owner of TV Guide. Gemstar plans to launch a massive consumer-awareness campaign later this year for the introduction of NuvoMedia’s and SoftBook Press’ new products, and for establishing the electronic reading device as a staple consumer product.

“Gemstar’s goal has always been to make technology consumer friendly. We are excited to offer consumers yet another convenience associated with the latest technology and information revolution,” said Henry C. Yuen, chairman and CEO of Gemstar. “Next to watching television, reading is America’s favorite pastime. We believe that Gemstar, NuvoMedia, and SoftBook collectively will be in a good position to provide the best technology, broadest distribution, and the most consumer-friendly devices….

“We intend to work hard to bring forward the time frame predicted by Steve Levy in his January 4, 2000 Newsweek article (entitled ‘It’s Time to Turn the Last Page’) that within 20 years, 90 percent of reading materials will be distributed on electronic media,” Yuen said.

“The key to electronic publishing is the issue of content security,” said Martin Eberhard, CEO and co-founder of NuvoMedia. “NuvoMedia and SoftBook have both created patented secure distribution and reading systems to ensure that publishers and authors will not have their works pirated. The fact that best-selling authors such as Stephen King, Arthur Golden, and Frank McCourt agree to electronically distribute their works on our systems is strong testimony to the confidence in our proprietary electronic-rights-management systems.

“Our combined technologies will further broaden our content-distribution capabilities and make our systems attractive for secured distribution of digital music, another rapidly growing electronic-content market in need of a solution. We believe that our devices will also serve as the means by which music publishers will release their major titles electronically as the book publishers are doing today.”

James Sachs, CEO and co-founder of SoftBook Press, said: “Gemstar, NuvoMedia, and SoftBook all believe that electronic books are the future of reading and content distribution, whether it is a bestseller novel, magazine, newspaper, or a business document. E-books have the potential to change the lives of students, professionals, and businessmen as well as recreational readers, and can significantly improve the efficiency of organizations which regularly handle large amounts of information. The combination of SoftBook Press with Gemstar and NuvoMedia will catapult the e-book category from a novelty to a necessity and help realize the vision that we outlined at the inception of the first e-book—to make it a ubiquitous reading device.”

NuvoMedia and SoftBook Press currently have content-distribution agreements and copyright-protection distribution systems in place with virtually every major publisher in the U.S., including Simon and Schuster, Random House, HarperCollins, St. Martin’s Press, McGraw-Hill, Macmillan Publishing, Doubleday, Ballantine, Fireside, and many more. In addition, NuvoMedia and SoftBook Press have relationships with many leading U.S. newspaper and periodical publishers, including Bloomberg News, Time, Newsweek, Fortune, Money, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition, and the Washington Post.

According to the announcement, the Rocket eBook and SoftBook Reader have won numerous design and systems awards. Both companies have been leaders in the Open eBook initiative, an open standard that provides publishers with a single specification for the preparation of electronic publications for electronic reading devices. On November 9, 1999, NuvoMedia and SoftBook Press developed a draft of an “Open eBook (OEB) File Format” specification. Designed to enhance the Open eBook Publication Structure 1.0, the OEB File Format specifies how multiple files of a digital publication can be combined into the single file necessary for electronic delivery. The proposal will result in a standardized, common PC file format.

NuvoMedia was founded in 1997. The Rocket eBook, launched in 1998, is a 22-ounce, paperback-size, hand-held electronic reading device with a 4.5 x 3-inch LCD backlit touch-sensitive screen capable of holding up to 55,000 pages of text and graphics, with a battery life of up to 40 hours of continuous usage. NuvoMedia specializes in providing trade titles for the consumer electronic book market. Using the Rocket eBook system, readers can purchase and download over 3,000 titles from the Web.

SoftBook Press was founded in 1996. In 1998, it launched the SoftBook Reader, a 2.9-pound magazine-size, hand-held electronic reading device with an 8 x 6-inch touch-sensitive screen capable of storing up to 85,000 pages of text and grayscale graphics, a battery life of 5 hours’ continuous reading, and a built-in modem and Ethernet allowing it to download books, newspapers, and other magazines without the need for a personal computer. It offers a large viewing area and built-in connectivity to distribute magazines and newspapers as well as more than 1,700 book titles from a long list of publishers.

Senior management at both NuvoMedia and SoftBook Press has entered into long-term employment agreements with Gemstar, and there are no plans for any reduction in workforce because of the business and technology development needs in this business sector.

Source: Gemstar International Group, Ltd., Pasadena, CA, 800/432-1827, 626/792-5700.

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