Food and gift basket sales increased 4.7%, but total e-commerce, which includes online and telephone orders, increased less than 1%.
Microsoft Corp. and Barnes & Noble Inc. announced an alliance to develop and market electronic books using Microsoft's new ClearType technology. Barnes & Noble bookstores, along with barnesandnoble.com, will begin offering e-books starting in the middle of this year, according to Barnes & Noble vice chairman Steve Riggio.
By that time, Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft will have included its Microsoft Reader software, under development for more than a year, in most of its operating systems and a new series of palm-size computing devices due out in the next several months.
New York-based Barnes & Noble intends to market the Microsoft Reader e-books aggressively, both in stores and online. "We're going to hit them over the head with this thing," says Riggio.
Among the booksellerâs plans, new book releases could have entire chapters available for preview online, Riggio says, giving Internet users the feeling of browsing a bookstore and reading a few pages.
E-books have met with little success in the consumer markets, though they have made some inroads among businesses, where a number of technical manuals, training texts and business documents are sometimes distributed in electronic format.
In addition to providing Microsoft Reader software with its Windows 98 and Windows 2000 operating systems, Microsoft will also include it with its new series of handheld computers, dubbed the Pocket PC by chairman Bill Gates in his Wednesday night keynote speech at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas..