Microsoft unveiled new software at the Seybold desktop publishing conference in San Francisco on Monday that it claims improves the quality of text on PC and laptop screens to make it easier to read.
Microsoft Reader, which was developed by Microsoft Research and is scheduled to ship early next year, is the first product to include the company's Cleartype font rendering technology.
Cleartype was first demonstrated last November at the annual Comdex show in Las Vegas, and enhances font resolution on liquid crystal or flat panel displays to deliver text presentation that is similar in quality to paper by reducing the tendency of words to become bolder as they grow in size.
Dick Brass, Microsoft’s vice president of technology development, said in his keynote speech at Seybold: “For customers, this means a reading experience closer than ever to that of printed paper. For publishers and authors, this means that electronic books and periodicals can now quickly grow to become a vast and lucrative new industry."
Brass predicted that Microsoft Reader would turn the hundreds of millions of existing PCs and laptops into "high quality eBooks" and boost the electronic publishing market.
"In less than 15 years, more than half of all titles sold will be electronic. Advances in computer displays and storage have made electronic reading possible, but Microsoft Reader will make it widespread and profitable," he claimed.
Microsoft Reader also includes a copy protection system to enable publishers to distribute titles without worrying about piracy and illegal copying. It has a builtin dictionary, a library for storing books and documents, and tools for bookmarking, highlighting and annotation.
The software giant is working closely with publishers, distributors, retailers and eBook pioneers to try and grow the fledgling electronic book industry and to ensure that customers have easy access to a wide range of electronic titles.
And for their part, publishers welcomed Microsoft's initiative. Michael Lynton, chief executive at Penguin-Putnam, said: "Microsoft is to be applauded for helping enable meaningful onscreen reading. This technology gives publishers and authors a better opportunity to reach readers with their titles in an electronic medium."
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