Barnes & Noble To Launch Android-Based Kindle Killer?

Amazon's Kindle might have a new e-reader enemy from a familiar source: Barnes & Noble.

Barnes & Noble is reportedly preparing to unveil an e-reader device to compete with Amazon's Kindle and the rapidly expanding field of e-readers. The book retailer is already a force in e-books thanks to its three-month-old eBookstore, but according to reports is prepping an e-reader of its own that will run on Google's Android operating system.

A Thursday report in The Wall Street Journal that quoted "people briefed on the matter" said Barnes & Noble will launch a branded e-reader with a 6-inch display, E-Ink screen and a virtual keyboard, plus the ability to download books wirelessly from the eBookstore.

No pricing or other additional details are mentioned, but a similar report over at Gizmodo, citing a source that claims to be a mobile application developer for Barnes & Noble, said Google's Android platform will power the Barnes & Noble reader.

The launch of an e-reader to compete against Amazon would further Barnes & Noble's penetration into the white-hot e-books market. Barnes & Noble, which has tried its hand at a digital book platform before, already has the eBookstore, does sales of e-books that can be read on mobile devices like Research In Motion's BlackBerry, and has partnerships to supply e-books, through the eBookstore, with new e-readers by iRex and Plastic Logic. (Seeing as those two will both use the eBookstore exclusively for content, having to also compete against Barnes & Noble at a device level could complicate things going forward.)

But Barnes & Noble's clear target is Amazon, whose e-tailing empire has helped siphon Barnes & Noble's book-selling profits over the years. Amazon itself has made a number of moves in recent weeks to keep Kindle as the leader of the e-reader pack, including slashing the price of Kindle, twice, to its current $259 tag, and also launching an international edition of the Kindle, for $270, that will soon be available in more than 100 countries.

The Barnes & Noble e-reader would launch right into the thick of e-reader competition, which in the past seven months has seen stepped-up competitive rhetoric from Amazon and its many challengers, including Sony.

E-reader sales themselves continue apace; Forrester Research earlier this week raised its 2009 forecast for e-reader sales by a full million units, up to 3 million from 2 million by the end of the year. Forrester also predicted Amazon's Kindle would close out the year with 60 percent market share in e-readers, with Sony at 35 percent.

For more on the e-reading landscape, check out our comparison of Amazon's Kindle with Sony's recent Readers and Plastic Logic's forthcoming device.

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