Barnes & Noble yesterday announced the launch of an eBookstore. Customers will be able to buy eBooks and read them on a range of platforms, including the iPhone and iPod touch, BlackBerry smartphones, as well as most Windows and Mac laptops or full-sized desktop computers.
Visitors to the Barnes & Noble Web site will be allowed to download an upgraded version of the eReader application, which was part of the company’s Fictionwise acquisition earlier this year. This eBook application supports both wireless and wired access to the new Barnes & Noble eBookstore.
In addition, Barnes & Noble announced that it will be the exclusive eBookstore provider on the forthcoming Plastic Logic eReader device, which will be released sometime in 2010. The move would appear to put the book retailer in direct competition with Amazon.com and its Kindle eReader. The Kindle currently sells for $299 after a recent price drop. There was no word on pricing for the Plastic Logic device.
Barnes & Noble said customers will have access to over 700,000 titles, with hundred of thousands available at $9.99. The company expects that its selection will increase to well over 1 million titles within the next year.
Sarah Rotman Epps, media research analyst for Forrester Research, applauds Barnes & Noble’s decision to enter the digital book market, but she doesn’t think the company will be stealing market share from Amazon anytime soon.
“Barnes & Noble will be matching the Amazon price point. It’s not radically different from Amazon’s model. They won’t be stealing share from Amazon,” she says.
However, Epps notes a different strategy for the new entrant to the market. “Barnes & Noble potentially has its own unique customer base and they’re taking a more diffuse approach. You can use the device that you already have, download your books right to that device and read it there.”
Epps was optimistic about the potential for the forthcoming Plastic Logic device, but notes that the challenges presented by the device’s new display technology are many.
“The biggest difference between the Plastic Logic device and the Kindle DX is that the Kindle and other eReaders on the market have a glass display, which makes them fragile. If you drop your Kindle, it’s likely to break. There isn’t a lot of give to the device. Plastic Logic’s innovation is a flexible display, it’s essentially plastic electronics, and it’s a totally new technology which is why they’ve had to build their own factory.”
“So this differentiation both makes their product unique but has introduced extraordinary challenges. Right now, they’re saying it will be out in first quarter 2010, but that release date has been pushed back a number of times already,” Epps says.
The Kindle gets its wireless connection from Sprint. Neither Plastic Logic or Barnes & Noble has yet released a partner for its wireless connection.