Barnes & Noble, the largest book retailer in the US, launched a major e-book store on Monday based on eReader technology from Fictionwise, the e-book retailer that B&N acquired back in March of this year. The launch features a new version of eReader with software clients for iPhones/iPod Touches and BlackBerries (though not the new BlackBerry Tour).
EReader has its own proprietary DRM, which authenticates by username and password. It is interoperable across all platforms, including Windows and Mac OS as well as those mobile devices. This means that users can download e-books and install copies of them on all of their compatible devices at the same time. Amazon does not completely offer similar capability with its Kindle/Mobipocket platform.
B&N’s e-bookstore is the most serious challenge to Amazon’s Kindle strategy yet. Amazon supports the Kindle in addition to many of the devices that B&N supports plus several other smartphones. B&N intends to add support for Plastic Logic’s e-book reader, an 8.5 x 11 inch, 1/4 inch thick device that is expected to ship early next year.
It also represents B&N’s re-entry into a market that it had abandoned several years ago, after the first Internet bubble, owing to excessive tech support costs and weak demand. B&N had been using Adobe’s Content Server platform, which Adobe ended up abandoning and then resurrecting in a new version last year.
The forthcoming Plastic Logic e-book reader will also support Adobe’s Content Server 4 platform. But otherwise, B&N’s new e-book initiative represents a setback for Adobe. Adobe is making its platform available through a number of retailers and on a number of devices, but none of them has the market clout that B&N has.
Yet Adobe is still undoubtedly a major player in the e-book market. With this launch, Barnes & Noble makes the e-book platform race a three-way contest. Will we see a Borders e-book reader using the Adobe platform? It’s certainly possible.