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Digital bookstore website debuts today

Associated Press / May 18, 2009
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SAN FRANCISCO - Hoping to do for the written word what iTunes did for music, the online document-sharing service Scribd is opening an Internet store that will offer new sales opportunities for authors and publishers, and possibly spawn more bargains for book lovers.

Scribd's commercial channel, scheduled to debut today, marks the first time the two-year-old service has charged for the material posted on its website. It claims to have amassed 35 billion words in a mix of books, PowerPoint presentations, legal briefs, and other documents.

Until now, access to all the material on Scribd had been free, although two months ago the company began to let publishers upload books with links to other websites where a copy could be bought.

Now San Francisco-based Scribd will pocket 20 percent of each sale completed in its own shop and pay the remaining 80 percent to the creators or copyright owners of the written material. It's a concept similar to other publishing sites, including Lulu.com, but Scribd appears more likely to shake up the market, said Gartner Inc. analyst Allen Weiner.

Scribd's biggest advantage is a system that will allow any document bought from its store to be read on different gadgets - a personal computer, an electronic book reader like Amazon.com's Kindle, or a sophisticated mobile phone.

"That's the Holy Grail right there, so I think this could turn into a really big deal," Weiner said.