VitalSource Technologies Inc. is making 'A Christmas Carol,' the classic Dickens tale of penny-pinching Ebenezer Scrooge available as a free download to anyone who visits the company's Web site and downloads its VitalSource Bookshelf software, the company said Thursday.
VitalSource Bookshelf is a software platform publishers use to make books available digitally. It allows publishers to create and distribute books with additional content linked to the text.
The software company, which delivers content using an iTunes-like model, is broadening its focus from academia and pushing into the commercial market, delivering classics from Shakespeare to Jane Austen for 99 cents each. "It's a download service, not a Web site full of content," said William Chesser, VitalSource's executive vice president for market development.
VitalSource's software has historically been tapped by university students to order and download digital textbooks at about 40-percent less cost than the printed versions. Another benefit to publishers and schools is that the service eliminates used-book buy backs at the end of each quarter or semester.
There are approximately 4,200 books available for sale in the VitalSource format. The company has delivered through its partnerships with IBM/Lenovo and Apple Computer more than 500 million eBooks since 1994, Chesser said.
Now the company wants to make a bigger push into the commercial market. The International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF), formerly the Open eBook Forum, and others estimate worldwide eBook sales in 2004 at about $15 million, Chesser said. "If that's accurate, VitalSource accounts for more than 25 percent of total sales," he said.
All content on the VitalSource Web site are directly downloaded onto the user's computer and may be repeatedly accessed at no additional charge.