Stock Watch: Soars on Microsoft Deal (Nasdaq: BNBN) was up 1 5/8 at 5 3/8 in early trading Monday following reports that the company is about to announce an e-book alliance with Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT).

The reports said the online bookseller and the software giant Tuesday will open an Internet outlet for digital books, available for downloading or in paperback copies that will be printed on demand on high-speed presses not available at (Nasdaq: AMZN). Amazon was down 17/32 at 31 31/32 early Monday.

Publishing companies are investing in electronic books, even as the potential level of consumer demand remains uncertain. Andersen Consulting predicted in a recent study that readers will warm to the idea, with sales of e-books rising to $2.3 billion by 2005.

Random House and Time Warner have both announced plans to launch e-publishing divisions. Meanwhile, best-selling horror writer Stephen King is making installments of his latest e-book available to readers directly for digital download.

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