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Baidu Starts Online Pay-to-Read Library as it Boosts Box Computing Apps

Baidu Inc., operator of China’s most used website, started an e-book service today and added 500 applications to its website to diversify beyond Internet search.

Readers will be able to read and store purchased electronic books on the website, Chief Executive Officer Robin Li said at a conference in Beijing today. Baidu is offering applications by developers including PopCap Games Inc., maker of hit mobile games such as “Peggle” and “Bejeweled2,” the company said today.

Baidu, which serves more than 75 percent of China’s online queries, said the products may help it expand in the world’s largest Internet market. The company has said it intends to develop its “box computing” service, which links the provision of content including books, video games and other entertainment, to online searches.

“Eventually, you’ll be able to watch movies using box computing,” Li said. He didn’t say how much the applications will contribute to earnings.

Prices for content on Baidu’s e-book service will be decided by publishers, who will share revenue, company spokesman Kaiser Kuo said today. Some titles displayed on the site today were priced at 5 yuan (73 U.S. cents).

Baidu Chief Financial Officer Jennifer Li said it was too soon to project the contribution to the company’s sales or profit from the e-books and applications.

“These services will eventually translate into financial benefits,” Jennifer Li said in an interview at the conference. “This is just the beginning.”

--Edmond Lococo. Editors: Suresh Seshadri, Dave McCombs

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Edmond Lococo in Beijing at +86-10-6649-7507 or elococo@bloomberg.net.

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