Barnes & Thursday launched an electronic publishing division that will offer writers editorial support, online sales monitoring and publicity while linking them with readers. "(We) have six million readers, and an author - by working with us - can make a book available to our consumers," said Michael Fragnito, publisher, Barnes & Noble Digital. "We know who bought Dean Koontz's book and we can contact them and say, 'Do you want to buy Dean Koontz's new book?'" The company will develop original electronic-book, or eBook, titles from well-known authors, such as best-selling novelist Koontz. He has been tapped as the first author to create an original eBook, The Book of Counted Sorrows, for Barnes & Noble Digital. The first eBook titles are expected out in the first half of this year. Using eBook devices, readers can take notes while reading, bookmark a page, highlight text, search for particular words and phrases, create drawings and use a dictionary to look up meanings of words as they read. They also have the option of downloading eBooks onto portable devices. Barnes & Noble Digital hopes to create eBooks that include images and audio, as well as links to other sites. "There's a convenience factor. One can download 10-20 books on their laptop and take it wherever they go," Fragnito said. "Kids will go to school in the next 10 years with some sort of dedicated device within which will be their textbooks." Barnes & Noble Digital will also give authors a larger share of income from their work, and sell eBooks at lower retail prices. Authors will receive a 35 per cent royalty of the retail price of books sold either directly through Barnes &'s eBookStore or any one of its affiliate network of more than 400,000 web sites. They will also get half of the net revenues received by the company from sales through third parties (other eBook retailers that buy books from Barnes & Noble). Literary agents will be able to track updated figures on their clients' sales through a password-protected program. Most eBooks will be priced between US$5.95 to $7.95 (around £4 to , less expensive than the print editions. "[Readers] can buy [eBooks] whenever and wherever they are," Fragnito said. "If you download Microsoft's Reader, then you'd go online and purchase an eBook in the same way you'd buy a print book. You would then go to the URL and download the book." Barnes & Noble Digital also maintains a password-protected library that allows readers to maintain and save content. EBooks will be available in all existing formats, including Microsoft Reader, RCA REB 1100 portable device and Glassbook Reader from Glassbook. "There are other technologies that will be developed in the years to come and we will make decisions on implementing them depending on the quality of the product and what it can provide to our customers," Fragnito said. While the company plans to publish valuable books that are currently out of print, focus is on digital versions of general interest books in print, including fiction, science-fiction, business, history, biography, self-help, technology and current affairs.