Barnes & Noble on Monday announced two e-book ventures, an online retail outlet for e-books called the Barnes & Noble eBookstore, and also a partnership with Plastic Logic to be the exclusive e-book provider for Plastic Logic's forthcoming e-reader. The announcements represent a major new source of competition for Amazon and Kindle, for now the leading names in the exploding e-book marketplace.
Barnes & Noble's eBookstore launched Monday and claims to offer 700,000 titles -- a number that's more than double the 300,000-or-so offered by Amazon through Kindle and significantly more than Google's 500,000 digitized, public domain books available through other rivals like the Sony Reader.
The pricing on the eBookstore for most books is the same as on Kindle: new releases and bestsellers for $9.99. Barnes & Noble said in a press release it expects the book selection to reach one million titles within the next year.
Barnes & Noble's eBookstore application -- which it developed as part of its acquisition of Fictionwise earlier this year -- is available for Apple's iPhone and Research In Motion BlackBerry phones, as well as Windows and Mac laptops and desktops, the company said. Barnes & Noble will also offer first-time users the opportunity to download a selection of free e-books.
"Today marks the first phase of our digital strategy, which is rooted in the belief that readers should have access to the books in their digital library from any device, from anywhere, at any time," said William J. Lynch, president of Barnes & Noble.com, in a statement. "As America's #1 bookstore and newsstand, our goal at Barnes & Noble is to build a service that revolves around the customer, enabling them to have access to hundreds of thousands of titles and read on their smartphone, PC, and many other existing and future devices. We want to make eBooks simple, accessible, affordable and convenient for everyone."
Plastic Logic's e-reader, first announced in February, is an 8.5 inch by 11 inch e-reading device that's slated to ship in early 2010. Barnes & Noble confirmed it will be the exclusive e-reading store for the devices, which given their size make them a direct competitor to Amazon's Kindle DX, the large screen version of the Kindle 2.
Barnes & Noble has experimented with selling e-books before, and in September 2003 closed the original e-book store it had launched through its retail Web site.
E-book excitement has come and gone, of course, since even before that time, but this time, thanks to its multi-platform penetration and sizeable content offering, it's clear Barnes & Noble understands the business model a bit better. Either that, or the Kindle's mainstream popularity means e-books are an idea whose time has finally come.
As for Plastic Logic, its e-reader didn't seem like much of a threat to Amazon's dominance, even though it's definitely part of the ever-expanding lineup of potential Kindle killers. But with one of the most recognizable names in book retailing behind it now, the game has changed.
This could get interesting.
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