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Kindle Gets Company With Barnes & Noble E-Book Store

Yesterday, Barnes & Noble announced a new electronic-book store, calling it the "world's largest eBookstore."

Barnes & Noble comes to the e-book party after Amazon, which launched its Kindle Store back in November of 2007 and shipped its third Kindle e-book reader, the larger Kindle DX, last month.

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?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  July 21, 2009; 11:12 AM ET
Categories:  Digital culture  
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Comments

After downloading the PC version of the eReader software and trolling B&N for free eBooks (a couple of them come with the reader), there are many instances of titles with multiple entries in the search results, generally differing historical editions from Google Books. Eleven different editions of George Eliot's "Adam Bede"? Not exactly a page-turner. How is a user supposed to know which one(s) to download? This doesn't seem like a very efficient use of either the user's time or Barnes & Noble's web resources.

Posted by: 54Stratocaster | July 21, 2009 2:10 PM | Report abuse

BTW, I've never had a problem with eBooks I purchased for my Palm OS devices mysteriously disappearing. Barnes & Noble now owns that storefront (eReader.com, Fictionwise) also.

Posted by: 54Stratocaster | July 21, 2009 2:19 PM | Report abuse

I downloaded the B&N app for my iphone and then checked out the B&N bookstore to see if there is anything I want.

It turns out that the books i am currently buying to read from sources such as Kindle/B&N are $1.00 to $1.50 more expensive on B&N. Plus, from what I can tell, I can't even use my B&N membership to get a discount on the ebooks (discount shows up for paperbacks and NOT ebooks).

So, for example, I am currently readding the Lost Fleet series by Jack Campbell on my Kindle reader for the iphone. Each of these is $6.39 on amazon.com/Kindle while they are $7.99 on B&N. For a five book series, that comes out to about$7.50, or the cost of a whole additional ebook. Please explain to me any motivation I might have with going to B&N in this case, especially since they won't even let me use the membership I PAID to have. Right now my only incentive is that B&N has an ebook title that I want to read that is not on kindle/amazon.

If B&N now owns the fictionwise and ereader storefront franchises and they adopt the pricing strategy of those enterprises, then I think they are makng a big mistake. For example, those outfits had books published by Baen books for $8.00 and up prices while these books are available either for free or $6.00 (on the title is published) with NO DRM in a variety of formats. So once again, why pay more for something with DRM that you can only use in one format when you can get it for cheaper with no DRM, (from the publisher no less).....

Posted by: jamdl01 | July 21, 2009 2:40 PM | Report abuse

I'm a longtime Fictionwise member and downloaded the eReader application some time ago. So, the B&N eBook Reader makes three different apps for one company on my iPhone. There is no integration among'em. You don't see books in any of the other apps in the chosen one, despite using the same email address to sign in. I hope all the books are integrated under the B&N application eventually.

A bright spot I see is using Google ebooks in the B&N eBook Reader. As someone noted, a list of editions of classic books will appear when you search in the B&N version of the app. Among the paid titles are the free Google ebooks. I downloaded Bleak House, which I have never gotten around to reading.

Posted by: query0 | July 22, 2009 4:11 AM | Report abuse

I have been waiting for Amazon to "really" bring the price of the Kindle down before signing on. If they have access to take books off "my" Kindle with out my knowledge or permission then I shall never buy one.

Posted by: billallen | July 22, 2009 10:05 AM | Report abuse

If it's got DRM, I ain't buying it.

Five years ago, I bought a few DRM'ed books from Amazon. Read 'em. Still have the files, but it's now impossible to "activate" them. They're gone.

I also have non-DRM, plain ASCII-text books that I got five years ago. They still work fine.

If Amazon, B&N, et al plan on making DRM'ed books the "new standard" for the coming decades, I fervently hope they fail miserably.

Posted by: DupontJay | July 22, 2009 12:23 PM | Report abuse

I hate DRM but nonetheless I bought a first generation Kindle right around the time it was first released. I'd been interested in e-books for a number of years at that point but never bought anything because either I didn't think the platform/business would stick around for very long (Rocket Reader) or the e-book prices were way too high (Sony Reader). I decided to get the Kindle because I was confident that I'd still be able to use my device for a good time to come and also I wanted to reward Amazon for understanding that e-books should not cost anywhere near the price of paper books.

Nonetheless, the DRM aspects do indeed bother me, which is why in well over a year of owning a Kindle I've bought only 3 books from Amazon, none of which was more than $7. Most of the 100+ books on my Kindle are public domain works (great works by Dumas, Verne, etc), Amazon freebies (His Majesty's Dragon, for example), or otherwise legally obtained (and almost always free) copyrighted works.

I know Amazon needs to have DRM on e-books to appease most publishers, and I'm not ignorant to the fact that Amazon also benefits by essentially locking in customers to their store. Nonetheless, I very much hope that with increased competition, Amazon will eventually go DRM-free on e-books, just as they are with MP3s. Until that point, my Amazon e-book purchases will be close to nil. I want -- and eventually expect -- the freedom to transfer my e-book files between devices and read them on whatever device I choose.

Posted by: mark42 | July 22, 2009 1:39 PM | Report abuse

I honestly don't understand how can regular people be some naive sometimes? We're still in this sort of transition era where the big companies are still struggling with copyright infrigements and the ipod/ebook/facebook generation. iTunes and any other legitimate company selling download products online can easily 'unpurchase' whenever they like because the system (i.e. our computers) is always linked to their 'virtual stores'. The only way to avoid this is to save your purchases somewhere else as in an external drive or storage for a backup copy.

Posted by: crodriguez2 | July 22, 2009 6:46 PM | Report abuse

I don't think Amazon had any choice but to retract and refund. It's the nature of the media. While it is not possible to enter each buyer's home and confiscate a paper copy of a book, it is indeed possible to retract a book via Kindle.

Posted by: gsdlea | July 22, 2009 10:31 PM | Report abuse

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