Barnes & Noble Launches E-Book Store

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.

2 comments

  1. Why would Plastic Logic go to the expense and trouble to support ACS4 and then announce an “exclusive content deal” with Barnes & Noble….? Doesn’t that unnecessarily add to the BOM cost and drive down the the margins?

  2. I doubt it. First of all, I doubt that B&N is really going to be the exclusive provider of e-books for the Plastic Logic device (if someone knows better, please reply to this comment!). Plastic Logic has indicated that it wants to go after the corporate/professional content market, which B&N does not serve – but Adobe certainly does.

    Beyond that, it’s probable that both DRMs (Adobe’s and B&N/eReader’s) are software-only implementations, meaning that Plastic Logic won’t have additional unit cost for hardware; and if they have enough memory and CPU to support one DRM, it’s probably enough to support the other one too.

    You may also be referring to the cost of the license to the DRM technology or software. That’s a possibility. Again, Plastic Logic may be willing to do this because it gives their devices access to Adobe’s installed base of e-book retailers in professional and niche markets. But on the other hand, Adobe may be willing to give Plastic Logic special terms because it sees Plastic Logic as its beachhead against the Kindle onslaught…

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