Book chain store Barnes & Noble announced the launch of the Barnes & Noble eBookstore, which the company claims is the world’s largest, on the company’s Website. The service enables customers to buy eBooks and read them on a range of platforms, including the Apple iPhone and iPod touch, BlackBerry smartphones, as well as most Windows and Mac notebooks or desktops. In addition, Barnes & Noble announced that it would be the exclusive eBookstore provider on the forthcoming Plastic Logic eReader device, which is expected to debut next year.
Barnes & Noble’s launch encompasses more than 700,000 titles retailing for $9.99. The company expects that its selection will increase to more than one million titles within the next year, inclusive of every available eBook from every book publisher and every available eBook original. In addition, the eBookstore offers more than a half-million public domain books from Google, which can be downloaded for free. First-time users of the eReader will have the opportunity to download free eBooks, including helpful and tomes such as Merriam-Webster’s Pocket Dictionary, and classics of literature including Sense and Sensibility, Little Women, Last of the Mohicans and Pride and Prejudice. Tissues are not included with free Jane Austin downloads.
The company is also offering an upgraded version of its eReader application, which was part of the company’s Fictionwise (one of the largest electronic book sellers in North America) acquisition earlier this year. This eBook application supports both wireless and wired access to the new Barnes & Noble eBookstore, and is supported by a wide variety of Internet-enabled devices.
Barnes & Noble also announced a strategic partnership with Plastic Logic, a spin-off company from Cambridge University’s Cavendish Laboratory. Their e-reader, seen as a competitor to Amazon’s widely publicized (and criticized) Kindle 2 e-reader, is scheduled to debut in early 2010 after a limited run for select partners later this year. It will reportedly have a thickness of less than seven millimeters, a form factor of 8.5-inch by 11-inches and a weight of less than 16 ounces. It will be capable of displaying Microsoft Office documents and PDF files as well as eBooks.
The Barnes & Noble eReader client software provides user-friendly interface to access the eBookstore and allows users to manage their personal eBook libraries. It features tools to optimize the reading experience, such as the ability to modify type size and font and annotate and bookmark text, as well as an auto-scroll feature enabling users hands-free reading. In addition, users, will be able to access their eBooks from any of their eBook software-equipped devices, so they can shift from reading their eBook from a smartphone to a notebook or eReader device.
William J. Lynch, president of BN.com, said the announcement marks the first phase of the company’s 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. “As America’s No. 1 bookstore and newsstand, our goal at Barnes & Noble is to build a service that revolves around the customer, enabling them to have access to hundreds of thousands of titles and read on their smartphone, PC, and many other existing and future devices,” he said. “We want to make eBooks simple, accessible, affordable and convenient for everyone.”