Barnes & Noble has released Nook for Android, its free e-reader application for Android-based smartphones and mobile devices. The bookseller also on July 22 announced plans to update its Nook applications for the Apple iPhone and iPad as well as other platforms in coming months.
Nook for Android runs on devices with Android OS 1.6 and higher. Features include the ability to choose landscape or portrait mode, adjust text size and font, lend ebooks to friends for up to 14 days, and access Barnes & Noble's eBookstore as well as the user's personal e-book library. Lending ebooks requires that the recipient also have downloaded Barnes & Noble's software.
In June, Barnes & Noble slashed the price of the Nook e-reader from $259 to $199, and introduced a WiFi-only Nook for $149. That ignited a price war with rival Amazon.com, which reduced the price of its Kindle e-reader from $259 to $189. A number of smaller competitors in the e-reader space, including the makers of the Kobo device marketed by Borders, price their devices within the $149 to $169 range.
Barnes & Noble in addition has announced software updates to its device, including a Web browser and Android-based games; the updates also corrected some bugs cited by early reviewers. One new feature, "Read In Store," allows Nook readers to browse the retailer's ebooks for free at any Barnes & Noble bookstore for at least an hour.
Despite e-reader manufacturers' focus on marketing their devices, the battle for the ebook market may eventually center more on applications for smartphones and mobile devices. Not only do those applications allow Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble to gain a toehold against the iPad, which can act as an e-reader and effectively makes Apple a competitor, but it allows those companies to sell more ebooks.
With the price cuts to the Nook and Kindle, ebooks may very well be the only way for these manufacturers to make money on the products, according to William Kidd, director of financial services for iSuppli. "With zero profits on their hardware, both companies now hope to make their money in this market through the sale of books," Kidd said in a June 24 statement, comparing that model to the one that has sustained the video game industry for years.
Amazon.com reported on July 19 that its Kindle ebooks are outselling hardcover books at an accelerating rate, with some 180 Kindle ebooks sold for every 100 of the latter. Amazon.com also claimed that three times as many ebooks have been sold in the first half of 2010 as in the first half of 2009.