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Book meets e-book in 'Final Jeopardy: Man vs. Machine'

February 15, 2011 |  8:57 am

Finaljeopardy Brad Rutter, Ken Jennings and a computer named Watson go into the second round of their battle to see whether man or machine will triumph in the trivia game Jeopardy on Tuesday night. And already, I'm holding a book about the contest in my hands.

The book is "Final Jeopardy: Man vs. Machine and the Quest to Know Everything," by Stephen Baker. Baker delves into the history behind Watson, the computer and the people who mapped out the challenges and strategies for making it a Jeopardy-solving champion.

To be fair, my copy of the book is an advance, and lots of books have advance copies. But this one is different: On Tuesday, before the match is over, anyone can buy the chronicle as an e-book (for Kindle, Nook, etc.). Even though the book, like the match, isn't finished yet -- because the story isn't over.

But when the week grinds down to Final Jeopardy and the match is over, the book will be finished. People who've purchased the e-book already will get an update with the last of the material that tells the story of the showdown. New e-book buyers will get the whole thing. 

And publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt says the hardcover version of the book, with the new material about the match, will follow very soon.

So a book that's timely is available right now, instead of coming out months later, as the pre-e-book publishing model would have mandated. As the men struggle against Watson (poor Ken Jennings, in third place), maybe a little distraction of how the machine came to be so smart will be welcome.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Alex Trebek, Ken Jennings, Watson and Brad Rutter. Credit: Associated Press