Awfully excellent timing for B&N, after the Kindle problems, imho.
Barnes & Noble Opens E-Bookstore With 700,000 Titles
(Updates with comments from B&N executive and analysts; provides additional details; freshens share price; adds background.)
By Scott Morrison and Kathy Shwiff
Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES
SAN FRANCISCO (Dow Jones)-Barnes & Noble Inc. (BKS) on Monday launched an e-bookstore offering titles that can be read on Apple Inc.’s (AAPL) iPhone and iPod Touch, Research in Motion Ltd.’s (RIMM) BlackBerry smartphones, as well as most notebook and desktop computers.
The largest U.S. book retailer said its e-bookstore will offer more than 700,000 titles, including hundreds of new releases and bestsellers for $9.99.
Unlike online retailer Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN), whose e-book strategy has largely revolved around its Kindle reading device, Barnes & Noble is taking a much more agnostic approach to the market, said Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps.
“Barnes & Noble is not trying to pick a winner. They are betting on the whole category of e-reading,” said Epps.
Epps noted that Barnes & Noble appears to be trying to capitalize on the affinity that consumers have shown for reading e-books on their mobile phones.
The research group estimates that more people have downloaded apps to read books on their iPhones than have bought dedicated e-book readers such as the Kindle.
“Mobile phones are not optimized for book reading, but for many consumers they are good enough,” she said.
Amazon declined to comment.
Barnes & Noble also said it will be the exclusive e-bookstore provider on the Plastic Logic eReader device aimed at business professionals. The ultra-thin 8.5-by-11-inch wireless eReader is to debut early next year.
E-books sold by Barners & Noble, however, won’t be compatible with the Kindle or Sony Corp.’s (SNE) proprietary Reader device, William J. Lynch, president of BN.com, said in a conference call.
Lynch said the company hoped to increase the number devices with which its e-bookstore content was compatible. The company also expects to offer more than 1 million titles in the next year, including every available e-book from every book publisher and every available e-book original.
Barnes & Noble’s e-bookstore titles include more than a half million public-domain books from Google Inc. (GOOG) that can be downloaded for free. These titles include classic works as well as obscure books. Google last year agreed to pay $125 million to settle lawsuits regarding the company’s plan to digitize, search and show snippets of copyrighted books without the express consent of the rights holder.
“Today marks the first phase of our digital strategy, which is rooted in the belief that readers should have access to the books in their digital library from any device, from anywhere, at any time,” said Lynch in a statement.
Barnes & Noble spent $15.7 million in March to acquire Fictionwise, which used to be the largest e-book seller before Amazon introduced Kindle. Barnes & Noble said at the time it would use Fictionwise as part of its overall digital strategy, which included the launch of an e-bookstore.
Other booksellers and publishers have been developing e-books and readers as consumers increasingly want to use mobile devices for entertainment as well as communications. In June, CBS Corp.’s Simon & Schuster book-publishing arm struck a deal to sell nearly 5,000 digital e-book titles on Scribd Inc., a Web site that allows people to post and read documents online.
Amazon in May launched a new version of its Kindle bookstore optimized for the iPhone, suggesting the Internet retailer could be moving toward a multiplatform electronic book strategy.
Booksellers have been hurt by the slowdown in consumer spending, while online competition has cut into sales from brick-and-mortar bookstores.
Barnes & Noble’s shares were up 0.4% after-hours at $22.11.