BN.com Rocks the E-Book Market

BarnesandNoble.com announced that it will launch “the world’s largest e-book store” with 700,000 titles, in formats compatible with the iPhone, iPod Touch, Blackberry, PC and Mac. It will also offer the Plastic Logic Ebook, which has entered an exclusive partnership with BN.com and will be available in early 2010, with web access tied to the AT&T wireless network. BN.com’s move at once co-opts Amazon’s old slogan while challenging Amazon’s strategy of selling e-books exclusively for the Kindle, its proprietary e-reader. But what does all this mean for readers?

For one thing, the BN.com e-store offers a wider selection of titles than any other single source. Half a million of the e-books on the B&N.com site will be public domain titles available via B&N’s partnership with Google, which is comparable to the number of public domain titles that the Sony Reader store offers its device users, according to ChannelWeb. However, Sony does not offer anywhere near the 200,000 new titles that BN.com does (that number includes the 60,000 fiction titles BN.com acquired when it bought e-book retailer Fictionwise last March). And while Amazon does have about 330,000 titles for the Kindle, it does not currently have a deal with Google for the use of public domain titles.  

E-book readers who buy through BN.com will also be able to use an upgraded version of its eReader software, according to the New York Times. That will allow users to read any e-book bought on BN.com on more than one device, with the glaring exception of the Sony Reader and the Kindle, the two main rivals to the Plastic Logic E-Reader.

B&N’s ebooks will be priced at $9.99, the Times also notes, which is comparable to Amazon’s pricing, and well under the typical $25 price set by publishers for many newly released digital editions. One of BN.com’s potential e-book pricing models may also allow e-book buyers to lend an e-book to three or four other users, for 30 days at a time, adds Publishers Marketplace (subscription only). The price of the Plastic Logic E-Reader has not yet been reported, but it’s likely to be less than the Kindle’s current $299 pricetag, according to Gadgetell.

Of course, none of the articles mention that libraries also offer free downloadable e-books.

At Smart Bitches Read Trashy Books, blogger SBSarah offered a contrarian view to all the hoopla:

“The store isn’t all that, there’s still YET ANOTHER form of book and DRM to deal with, and there’s no transparency as to whether ebook readers are buying a license of limited download (aka a “book rental”) or if they own the title themselves.

While I’m ranting, let me offer my Chinese fortune cookie assessment of the following sentence from the AP article: “The company also says that as part of its digital effort, it will be the exclusive content provider for the new Plastic Logic eReader device.”

Crack your cookie and listen up: NOTHING GOOD comes of the words “exclusive content provider.” Not in an economy that is all about predatory bargain shopping.

In case you were wondering: digital books represented 4.9 percent of books sold in May, up from 3.7 percent in March, according to book marketing company The Codex Group.

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