Barnes & Noble announced an agreement to sell Plastic Logic's QUE e-reader through both its brick-and-mortar stores and online retailer, despite the bookseller rolling out its own Nook e-reader last week. Barnes & Noble's in-store placement of the QUE will be near displays for the Nook.
This marks the second collaborative announcement between the two companies. Earlier in 2009, Plastic Logic announced that QUE users would be able to download books through Barnes & Noble's online bookstore. While the QUE will include the normal functionality of e-readers, Plastic Logic has been promoting the device as most suitable for a business audience, touting its ability to download and display .PDFs, Microsoft Word and PowerPoint documents.
The Barnes & Noble online bookstore includes some 700,000 books-with more being added daily-and 500,000 free public-domain volumes from Google.
Plastic Logic plans to debut pricing and details of the QUE at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show in January. The device, which measures 8.5 by 11 inches, will utilize AT&T's 3G network and Wi-Fi for wireless downloading. However, Plastic Logic has been reluctant to share many other details about the QUE, even taking steps to shoot its publicity photos in such a way that obscures the e-reader's screen and button configuration.
The QUE has been touted heavily by Barnes & Noble over the past week, even as the bookseller announced the Nook at a high-profile event in New York City on Oct. 20.
The Nook includes two screens, including an e-ink display for reading text and an iPhone-like multi-touch strip that allows users to navigate their libraries and purchase new books. AT&T provides the downloading service for the device, which will be priced at $259 and go on sale at the end of November. A "LendMe" feature allows users to share books from Nook-to-Nook for a period of 14 days.
Both the Nook and the QUE face substantial competition in the form of Amazon.com's Kindle e-reader, which has been released in multiple iterations and recently had the price of its original version dropped to $259. While Amazon.com has emphasized the porting of e-books primarily onto its proprietary device (they also have an iPhone app), Barnes & Noble's announced strategy from the outset involves having users not only rely on the Nook, but also book-downloading apps for the iPhone and iPod Touch.
Barnes & Noble may see Amazon.com as its rival, but a completely different situation exists with Plastic Logic.A statement from Barnes & Noble suggested that the bookseller sees the QUE as occupying a different competitive segment from the Nook.
"We're excited to expand our relationship with Plastic Logic to include not only an eBookstore, but also a physical presence in our bookstores nationwide and on BN.com," William J. Lynch, president of BN.com, is quoted in an Oct. 27 press release. "Carrying [Nook] and QUE allows us to provide consumers a one-stop destination in Barnes & Noble stores to demo and buy two of the best eBook readers on the market."
The Plastic Logic e-reader, Lynch further asserted, plays into Barnes & Noble's road map for the devices:
"It also supports our digital strategy to offer customers choice, expand the market overall and deliver on our promise to provide any book, any time, anywhere."
Editor's Note: A paragraph has been revised to include mention of Amazon.com's Kindle iPhone app.