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3/6/2009
03:06 PM
Ed Hansberry
Ed Hansberry
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Barnes & Noble To Take On Amazon Kindle?

Yesterday Barnes & Noble completed its acquisition of Fictionwise, which also includes eReader.com and eBookwise, for $15.7 million. Could this be the book retailer's move into e-books, taking on the popular Kindle store by Amazon?

Yesterday Barnes & Noble completed its acquisition of Fictionwise, which also includes eReader.com and eBookwise, for $15.7 million. Could this be the book retailer's move into e-books, taking on the popular Kindle store by Amazon?Amazon just released the Kindle software for the iPhone and speculation is it will be coming to other platforms as well. By acquiring Fictionwise, B&N has access to e-book content, software, and distribution servers for a variety of platforms, including Windows, Mac OSX, the iPhone, Windows Mobile, Symbian, Blackberry, and more. The trick will be for B&N to consolidate the contents of these three sites making it easier for the average consumer to buy ebooks, something Amazon has made drop-dead simple with Kindle. Right now, not all books are available in all formats for all platforms. In fact, figuring out what format you want can be daunting. Fictionwise alone supports more than a dozen formats! According to an interview of Fictionwise founders by TeleRead, Fictionwise has been dedicated to providing some content in non-DRM format, meaning it isn't electronically locked to a specific device. Hopefully, B&N will continue that philosophy. The brutal truth, though, is most publishers, especially those pumping out New York Times best-sellers, will require some form of DRM to prevent unauthorized copying of the books. I've been an eReader user for over a decade, going back to when it was called Peanut Press. Its form of DRM has been very friendly and I've only once had an issue in more than 100 purchases. Fictionwise also supports DRM content in MS Reader, secure Adobe Reader, and MobiPocket. The problem is, as you browse books at Fictionwise, you may find what you want but quickly discover it isn't available in the format you want. All too often for me, the format is for reader software that only works on a PC, not a smartphone or other handheld device. I am sure this is in spite of efforts by Fictionwise to get its content to more platforms. Publishers thus far have tended to like DRM that is very restrictive and it is easier to write very restrictive DRM policies on a PC than on half a dozen mobile platforms. Perhaps Barnes & Noble will be able to put some of its weight behind its new ebook division and accomplish two things: 1) Consolidate formats so users only have to worry about what book they want to read and not what software they need to read it and 2) Get publishers of big titles to embrace the mobile platforms. Amazon already has shown considerable muscle in this area with the iPhone release of Kindle software. B&N's entry into this should help, and the competition between Amazon and B&N should benefit the consumer.

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