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Summary:

Last month, Barnes & Noble created an iPhone app for its brick-and-mortar stores. I was just browsing the App Store and see a free B&N eReader for iPhones. This was the next logical step for the company — it purchased Fictionwise earlier this year for a […]

barnes-and-noble-ereaderLast month, Barnes & Noble created an iPhone app for its brick-and-mortar stores. I was just browsing the App Store and see a free B&N eReader for iPhones. This was the next logical step for the company — it purchased Fictionwise earlier this year for a reported $15.7 million to gain their eReader software and storefront technology. Folks familiar with eReader will recognize much of the new B&N eReader application.

From my first glance, it appears to be the same eReader software, but with a Barnes & Noble branding. All of the eReader functions are in the software: note-taking, custom fonts and themes, auto-scrolling and cover view for your library. You can add to the library by hitting the “Shop for eBooks” button, but then you leave the software. Instead of an integrated store, shopping happens in the Safari web browser, so it’s not quite seamless. Like the Amazon Kindle store, you can download a sample of any ebook.

Although this is clearly the eReader software with a different wrapper, I don’t see a way to get eReader content you already own into the application. The app uses a Barnes & Noble account but that isn’t linked to my eReader account in this version. I was able to use my eReader account to register the device, so I suspect that a full linkage is coming in a future release.

With the iPhone platform growing in popularity, it seems to makes sense for Barnes & Noble to target it. After all, the base eReader software is already supported on the iPhone. But eReader also supports the BlackBerry, Symbian S60 and Windows Mobile handsets. Amazon doesn’t. Rather than fight Amazon’s Kindle for iPhone app, it would make more sense to hit Amazon where they don’t exist. There are millions of non-iPhone handsets for the taking, so why isn’t Barnes & Noble going after them first?

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  1. You should have a look at Short Covers. It’s an e-book reader by Chapters-Indigo, Canada’s biggest book retailer. Their iPhone application is great, and they are already on the BlackBerry, Palm Pre, and Android (maybe more..) as well as on the web.

    I haven’t purchased a book from them, so I am not sure how well they have implemented that, I am currently reading Free by Chris Anderson – for free.

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  2. I forgot to mention in my last comment, although it is by a Canadian company, I believe they sell internationally.

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  3. Shortcovers is great although the app can be fussy sometimes when you try to open it.
    B&N’s app does not allow credit card purchasing with a Canadian address.
    This makes absolutely no sense to me given a Canadian address will allow purchasing from Fictionwise and eReader.
    Does anybody know if this geographical restriction is temporary?
    I’ve contacted B&N but as of yet haven’t received a reply.

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  4. Why go after iPhone first? Hello, McFly! There are over FORTY MILLION iPhone OS devices out there! Who *wouldn’t* go after the biggest freaking market?

    If a major company did some sort of gee-whiz software and it was Mac-only, you’d be complaining that they should have done Windows first, since that’s a larger installed base.

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    1. Where do you get 40 million iphone devices??? You mean ipod devices, that’s not the same. The market for non iphone devices is much MUCH bigger.

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    2. Kevin C. Tofel Monday, July 20, 2009

      Hello, McFly right back at ya! ;) It’s not the “biggest freaking market” by a long shot. Perhaps the “one with the hottest trend”, but not biggest, at least not yet.

      iPhone just passed Windows Mobile sales in Q3 of 2008… BUT only for that quarter and likely those up to now. That means there are at least several years where more WinMo devices were sold than iPhones and are still in use. Not all, I’d grant you, but there is still a huge potential market for eReader. Same with BlackBerry and S60 devices: far more of them in use than iPhone OS devices. In fact, during the quarters where iPhone sold more than WinMo, *BB sold more than iPhone*!

      So my point was: why not target those handsets since there are more potential customers AND since Amazon effectively ignores them?

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  5. I’m hoping they do roll out help for the non iPhone crowd (we’re a bigger market). I imagine, the iPhone app was the simplest to program. Every iPhone is the same size, with the same navigation tools.

    Whereas, when you get into WinMo and BlackBerry, you have to design for different screen sizes, and each handset has the soft and hard keys in different places, so each variation or phone model just increases the build time of the app.

    So I do hope they invest the time to make it happen for the rest of the world that hasn’t dropped major $$$$$ on their phones.

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  6. Jack B Nimble Monday, July 20, 2009

    You may want to take a look at the B&N site. I don’t have access to a crackberry to verify, but they do claim the software is also available for Mac, PC and Blackberry.

    http://www.barnesandnoble.com/ebooks/index.asp

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    1. You are correct! Good news for BB owners as the new software is available for those handsets as well. I got a press release today that says the same — wish I had received it before I saw the app and drew my conclusion about what handsets they were targeting! ;) In the end, I’m glad they are casting a wider net.

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  7. B&N needs to just get some content out there for the eReader. The last 2 books I bought for the iPhone Kindle weren’t available for eReader, otherwise I would’ve bought the eReader version.

    You listening B&N??!

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    1. That’s surprising. B&N claims to have over twice the amount of books available when compared to Amazon. They also have access to all of google’s public domain publications.

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  8. Not surprised B&N is entering the e-Book market. I want an e-reader but still haven’t bought one. Looking at the Kindle, but $300 is more than I want to spend on one.

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  9. iPhone = iPhone + iPod touch for this app.
    No iPhones in this household, but each of us (5) have the iPod touch.
    If this is typical, it is a huge market.

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  10. David Carnicelli Friday, August 7, 2009

    There are several titles that I’d like to buy that are available for Kindle but not at B&N, eReader, or Fictionwise. The Kindle app for iPhone is horrendously bad.

    I’d also like a way to get my eReader and Fictionwise content into the B&N Reader for iPhone.

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