Kindle Gets Company With Barnes & Noble E-Book Store
Against Amazon's offering, B&N, of New York, emphasizes selection and flexibility. Its press release touts an inventory of "more than 700,000 titles at its store," which is predicted to climb to "well over one million titles" by sometime next year. But that same document also notes that the current numbers include about half a million public-domain books available through Google's book catalog. Those titles are free to download, while new releases and bestsellers cost $9.99.
B&N's e-book software, unlike Amazon's, runs on more than two platforms. It's a free download for Apple's iPhone and iPod touch, many of Research In Motion's newer BlackBerry smartphones, Windows 2000 or newer and Mac OS 8.6, OS 9 and OS X 10.1 or newer. Later this year, Barnes & Noble will also bring its e-books to Mountain View, Calif.-based Plastic Logic's upcoming reader tablet.
Seattle-based Amazon, for its part, has helped and hindered its own e-book efforts in recent weeks. On July 8, it cut the price of the Kindle 2 from $359 to $299 (a co-worker who bought one not long before the price drop says Amazon refunded the difference). But last week, Kindle owners who had purchased editions of George Orwell's 1984 or Animal Farm saw those titles magically disappear from their Kindles -- with the price of purchase refunded to their accounts. Amazon, it turned out, had been selling illegitimate editions; the publisher of these copies of Orwell's works didn't have the right to sell them.
It seems correct for Amazon to stop selling those titles in that case. But does that give the company the right to unpurchase purchased copies of those books too? A lot of folks would disagree.
Combined, Amazon's escapades and Barnes & Noble's debut make this an interesting week to look at the state of the e-book market. I'll be trying out B&N's store -- note that it relies on the same sort of "digital rights management" restrictions as Amazon -- and looking into the workings of Amazon's DRM for this weekend's column. In the meantime, if you've tried out the B&N store, I'd like to hear your thoughts on it, as well as any questions you might have about its finer points. And if you've bought e-books on the Kindle Store, do last week's developments make you reluctant to repeat the exercise?
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