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Barnes & Noble: Who Needs Amazon's Kindle?

Posted by: Cliff Edwards on July 20, 2009

Move over Amazon, the race to electronically deliver books is heating up.

Barnes & Noble, the largest bookstore chain by revenue, just became the latest company to launch its own eBook store to compete with Amazon and its increasingly popular Kindle family of electronic readers. It joins Sony and other companies that aim to capture a piece of this young, but fast-growing market.

Rivals have been taking aim at Amazon, which exercises more control over how consumers use their Kindle devices, the price book publishers set and its relative expense. Amazon recently took some heat for deleting unlicensed copies of author George Orwell’s novels from users’ Kindle readers without advance warning.

Barnes & Noble says its new eBook store will let users download titles to a variety of mobile devices, including Apple’s iPhone, Research in Motion’s Blackberry, pcs and Macs. The company also is partnering with Plastic Logic to offer a dedicated 8.5- by 11-inch electronic reader that can wirelessly download choices from more than 700,000 titles early next year.

Companies also are looking for points of differentiation as the field for eBook readers gets more crowded. Barnes & Noble says that iPhone users can snap a photo of the front cover of a book and within seconds get product details, editorial reviews and customer ratings. The application also includes a store locator, bestseller lists, book recommendations, and a store events calendar.

The competition should be good for consumers. It will keep prices for electronic books down and should result in significantly lower costs for the readers themselves in coming months. Already, Amazon has dropped the price of its Kindle 2 reader by $60, to $299, just a few months after its launch.

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Reader Comments

Betty White

July 20, 2009 08:40 PM

I love the Iphone It is such a great invention." I wish that I was able to purchase one it does have so many features that the other phones don't have. Though the other companies are offering quite a lot og features on their phones too. I just think that the I Phone was such an great invention that can't be competioned with at the moment and time. To me hurray for the IPhone.


July 20, 2009 09:30 PM

That is outstanding. Much welcome in the industry. I cant wait to see what the future will bring from B&N


July 20, 2009 09:40 PM

Forget the lower power and ease of use, and forget the High Price of Kindle.

I know a lot of book readers. We don't care if a reader will go 12 hours or more in a sitting or that it's easy to read like a real book. What we want is a device like on startrek that accesses the network, lets us read what we want, what we have on file and anywhere we want so we can enjoy reading.

I have thousands of files, not just books or novels. I read supreme court opinions, most daily online papers and magazines (using bloglines) as well as text books.

PAD. Personal Access Device.
Then I'll pay $300.

Peter B

July 20, 2009 10:14 PM

$299 for a Kindle plus more money to download each book. Sorry dudes but my library card only cost me $12 per year and I can read as many books as I want for that cost.

Madison McGraw "Girl Arsonist"

July 21, 2009 07:33 AM

Fabulous. Now if only they realize that what makes the Kindle so valuable it the ability to "buy books" while waiting for the train or sitting in the DR.'s office.

Also - price for an eBook should reflect the removal of shipping/supplies/storing and the inability to share it.

eBooks should be seen as a marketing tool. Buy the eBook at low cost, and if the book is *that good* it should prompt us to buy a copy of the book.

I don't like 'clutter' - which is why I love the Kindle - but when I read an eBook that I can't put down, I'll buy a copy so that I have it if my electronics fail (and also so I can lend it to others).

Madison McGraw

Breno Neri

July 21, 2009 08:06 AM

I'm really curious to see Apple jumping in this market. Imagine an iPhone-thin, "Kindle DX"-sized, touch-screen iTablet! Besides e-book reader capabilities, such a device could be a game pad, like the iPod Touch. This would be an amazing product. And, to be frank, there are no technological obstacles. I trully believe we'll see something like this sooner than later (all tech rumors sites are mentioning this Apple project).


July 21, 2009 12:14 PM

If B&N were smart they would give away the readers and charge for the books (access plan) just like cell phone companies.


July 21, 2009 12:23 PM

Other articles on this subject have said that the Barnes and Noble ebooks will be readable on the Kindle also, but I can't confirm that from Barnes and Noble's website.


July 21, 2009 08:36 PM

The B&N device by Plastic Logic, was originally devised as a business device, and therefore includes compatibility with PPT, DOC, XLS and a few other formats for web publishing. This is a broader device than the Kindle, which is how B&N will distinguish itself from the Kindle and other e-ink based e-readers. While this is an intriguing proposition, I would suspect that when Pixel Qi's technology is incorporated into existing LCD manufacturing, LCDs will become more compelling as e-readers, in tablet form, as currently the only color e-ink reader is Fujitsu's reader, and the cost is rather expensive at $1,000.

Dorothy Parker

July 22, 2009 09:14 PM

If B&N's device is well designed, economical, "open source," (will display books I obtain from merchants other than B&N), and does not allow outsiders to monitor or alter its contents, then I will consider it.

I am truly shocked and worried by Kindle. Not only has Amazon designed the reader to block material from non-Amazon sources, but Amazon can track the contents of the "bookshelf" and has already in three cases used that ability to alter or remove material.

I am so appalled by Amazon's actions, which are thoroughly disrespectful to its customers and at sharp variance with what books are all about, that I have ceased any relationship with them, even as it concerns buying traditional books.

So, B&N, there's your opening. Your company is rooted in books. If you can bring your background in the book business, including an appreciation for what books are, to the electronic world, then you've got a damned good shot at my long-term loyalty.

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BusinessWeek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, Douglas MacMillan, and Spencer Ante dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. One of the first mainstream media tech blogs, Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.



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