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 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?