Barnes & Noble’s New E-Book Reader

Barnes & Noble announced pre-order availability of its new “nook” e-book reader, which is based on the Adobe Content Server and Digital Editions platforms as well as Google’s Android operating system.  America’s largest retail bookstore chain is mounting a major marketing push for the new device, explicitly going head-to-head with the Amazon Kindle.

One of the more remarkable things about the new device — besides its color touchscreen and overall sleek looks — is its ability to support e-book lending.  Users can lend their purchased e-books to friends for reading on various devices — iPhones, PCs, Macs, and various smartphones as well as other nooks.

B&N apparently implemented this feature itself, based on the e-book lending feature that Adobe has built into its platform software.  Adobe Content Server is currently used to support e-book lending from many public libraries across the country, but never to support one user lending to another.  The first user’s access to the e-book must be turned off while the book is “loaned,” then turned back on again when it is “given back.”

I haven’t found out whether it’s possible to do this by email or USB storage device, or whether the second user must download the “loaned” e-book from B&N’s server.  I suspect the latter; the former would be tricky to implement, plus the latter approach gives B&N an opening to market to the second user.  (Please post a comment if you know.)

In any case, Adobe and B&N refer to this feature as “social content protection” and intends to integrate it into its server software so that B&N — and presumably other service providers — can use it with devices other than the nook that use the Adobe platform, such as the Sony Reader.

This is something of a shift in strategy for B&N after its recent purchase of Fictionwise; now it’s apparent that B&N wanted Fictionwise’s e-bookstore retail infrastructure for its service.

In any case, this is a game-changer for Adobe.  With the largest US bookseller as its retail partner, it finally has a chance to compete seriously with Amazon.  Adobe is no longer destined to become to e-books what Microsoft has become for music: a platform provider with many device partners but very little market share.

Adobe is destined for a strong future with Barnes & Noble.  Publishers, who desperately need a strong competitor to Amazon to help prevent another music/Apple situation, should be working hard to ensure its success.

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