NEW YORK (AP) – Over the past couple of years, the cell phone has emerged as a sound system, a video game player and a TV screen.

Now, it could become the latest outlet for books.

Random House, the country’s leading trade book publisher, announced Thursday that it had purchased a “significant minority stake” in VOCEL, a San Diego-based company that describes itself as a provider of “premium-branded applications for mobile phones.”

Cell phone texts have already caught on in Germany, South Korea and Japan, where a cell-novel became so popular that it was turned into a feature film, “Deep Love.”

Random House already has dabbled in the phone market. VOCEL is currently working on a line of SAT study guides with The Princeton Review, an educational services company.

“You can have both text and an audio component,” he said. “When you learn a language, for instance, you can have the word appear on your screen and also hear how it’s pronounced.”

Other publishers had mixed reactions. Penguin Group USA and St. Martin’s Press said they had no current plans to invest in phone texts. But Oxford University Press said it was interested, and Simon & Schuster “has been testing the waters,” according to spokesman Adam Rothberg.

“We’re talking to all kinds of people about it,” he said. “It’s obviously one of the next frontiers in the e-book world.”

AP-ES-02-17-05 1720EST

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