Taking Books Online

Journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault speaks during a memorial ceremony for longtime CBS News journalist Ed Bradley held at the Riverside Church in New York Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2006.
The Frankfurt Book Fair opened Wednesday aiming to take the printed word into the digital age, offering a $100,000 e-book prize for the first time to highlight the new media's potential.

Nearly 7,000 publishers from 107 countries are at the 52nd annual fair, Europe's most important gathering of the literary trade with publishers showing off the latest in the printed word.

But the biggest buzz is a new emphasis on electronic publishing and e-books — books published in digital format for viewing on a screen rather than on a printed page.

"We're still at a very early stage in the development, but the product has a bright future," said Hermann Salmen of Gemstar EBook, a German subsidiary of U.S.-based Gemstar TV-Guide International.

Gemstar is one of the companies behind the $100,000 Frankfurt e-Book Award, to be awarded Friday in a gala ceremony carried live on the Internet.

E-books are aimed at snagging readers away from computer games, videos and television, which are taking an ever-increasing slice of people's leisure time. At the book fair this year, an entire convention hall has been set aside for CD-ROMs, database contents, books published on the Internet and careers in digital publishing, such as online editors.

An electronic media center opened Wednesday as a marketplace for e-publishers to meet with online editors, writers and computer experts.

"Every fourth exhibit has an electronic media display," said book fair director Lorenzo Rudolf.

Comic books are another highlight this year as the fair tries to move broadly beyond the traditional concept of the book.

Some 380,000 books, graphic artworks and multimedia products are being rolled out at the dizzying fair, which ends Sunday. Nearly 60 different languages are represented, and 90,000 new titles will make their debut.

This year's featured country is Poland, a poignant choice because of past Polish-German enmity and the Nazi murder of Polish intellectuals during World War II.

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