July 21, 2009

Barnes & Noble Hits The Online Reading Scene

Barnes & Noble Inc has ventured into the world of e-books with the launch of what is considered to be the world's largest online bookstore "“ boasting over 700,000 titles available online to be downloaded onto devices like the iPhone.

The leading bookseller plans to price their e-books the same as online retail powerhouse Amazon at $9.99 to download most new releases and bestsellers. Google Inc. has now added more than half a million titles to the list.

Barnes & Noble is also set to be the sole provider of digital books on the Plastic Logic e-reader, which will launch early next year as a competitor of the popular Kindle from Amazon.

Unlike Amazon that only has titles available in the Kindle store only compatible with the Kindle device, the bookseller says that its digital books could be read on several devices, including the iPhone or iPod touch, the Blackberry by Research in Motion Ltd, and most Mac and Microsoft Corp Windows laptops or desktop computers.

Within the next year, the company hopes to have added over 1 million titles to its e-book selection and offer every available e-book from every book publisher.

Amazon offers just over 300,000 digital titles for the Kindle.

"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," insists William Lynch, president of barnesandnoble.com.

The company's plunge into the world of digital books comes as an attempt to stay relevant when a multitude of companies are contending for a place in the burgeoning industry.

Booksellers such as Barnes & Noble and its rival Borders Group Inc that sell books the old fashioned way have been trying to overcome their waning sales in the $25 billion domestic book market as readers seek the portable and lightweight approach to reading or turn to visual entertainment instead.

Lynch hopes that their 77 million "voracious readers" who currently purchase physical copies of books will in time become fans of the digital books.

None of the titles offered by Barnes & Noble will be compatible with the Kindle or Sony's e-reader.

Barnes & Noble's approach to the concept differs greatly from that of Amazon, whose Kindle only works if you buy the content from the Kindle Store. This has been a turn off for people who would want to read material from a variety of devices.

In late 2007, the Kindle had the highest-profile launch of an e-reader ever despite the fact that Sony and others had already entered the market more than a year earlier with their version.

Barnes & Noble's ultra-thin reader is made by privately owned Plastic Logic and measures roughly the size of a letter-sized piece of paper.

Last week, Amazon's device received unfavorable publicity with a lawsuit that claims the device's screen can shatter if a protective cover is used, and Amazon was also criticized  for deleting certain books from users' Kindles without first notifying owners.

Barnes & Noble would not disclose whether the new reading device would be available online or in stores.

Barnes & Noble shares closed up 3% to $22.11 on a day when the stock market rallied, while Amazon shares were up 2.8%to $88.23.


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