Nomura International Plc has bought an 11% stake in Versaware Technologies Inc, the Israeli electronic publishing software company, in what those close to the deal describe as a substantial investment of new money. The investment by Nomura, a venture capitalist arm of the giant Japanese bank, is the first round of institutional investment for eighteen month old Versaware, which has its US headquarters in New York. The company has until now used $10m of private funding from founder Harry Fox and the Canadian Belzberg Group. While a number of companies are offering devices to read electronic books, Versaware has developed tools and applications to allow consumers to build electronic libraries of multimedia books, from source material it has collected on the web. It claims to hold patents which cover the conversion of printed word formats into electronic formats. Based on HTML and XML, Versaware’s tools are device independent, and run on PCs, internet appliances and handheld devices, such as palmtop PCs and the emerging brand of E-Book readers. Versaware says major publishers such as Simon and Shuster and Oxford University Press are adopting its format, but it also plans to sell directly to consumers. Its primary focus is the non-fiction market, where readers can take advantage of search facilities across a library, and where new editions can be integrated automatically. Kevin Sara of Nomura said the licensing potential and development possibilities of the technology represented an outstanding investment opportunity. Versaware, whose R&D facilities are based in Jerusulem, will use the additional funds to accelerate the acquisition of book titles, expand in the US and establish a European presence while increasing its R&D spending.
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