Barnes & Noble plans to release an e-reader application for Apple’s upcoming iPad tablet PC, suggesting a strategy of porting its own e-reader brand onto as many screens as possible
Paul Hochman, manager of content and social media at BarnesandNoble.com, wrote 11 March on the company’s Unbound: Nook and BN eReader blog: “Designed specifically for the iPad, our new B&N eReader will give our customers access to more than one million eBooks, magazines and newspapers in the Barnes & Noble eBookstore, as well as the existing content in their Barnes & Noble digital library.
“To be released around the time of the iPad’s expected availability, the new Barnes & Noble eReader will join our growing list of free eReader software for most computing and mobile devices.”
Despite releasing proprietary e-reader devices, both Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com have issued several applications for various platforms, including PCs and the Apple iPhone, that allow users to download and read e-books on different screens. Apple’s iPad, due for UK release in April, presents both companies with the prospect of a hardy competitor in a market that is rapidly filling with devices from smaller manufacturers looking for their own slice of the pie.
For its part, Amazon.com has reacted to the prospect of an Apple tablet PC with a variety of initiatives, including an software development kit (SDK) that developers can use to build mobile applications that make use of Amazon.com’s Kindle e-readers’ 3G wireless delivery and high-resolution e-ink display. In February, Amazon.com also reportedly acquired Touchco, a startup specialising in multi-touch technology, raising the prospect that the next version of the Kindle will feature some sort of touch screen. Many of the e-readers coming onto the market, including Barnes & Noble’s Nook, already include some kind of multi-touch interface for navigation and book downloading.
The prospect of Apple entering the e-reader space has also had a substantial effect in the past few weeks on book publishers, some of which have decided that the arrival of a new device on the market is the perfect time to challenge the existing paradigm, particularly when it comes to price. Amazon.com experienced its own version of this sudden publishing-house verve when Macmillan, publisher of bestsellers such as “Wolf Hall,” pushed to raise the prices of e-books into the $12.99-to-$14.99 (£8.62 to £9.95) range from the previous $9.99 (£6.63) price point. In response, Amazon.com temporarily pulled the publisher’s titles from its online store.
At the time, however, Amazon.com also acknowledged that such price changes are likely the way of the future. “We will have to capitulate and accept Macmillan’s terms because Macmillan has a monopoly over their own titles, and we will want to offer them to you even at prices we believe are needlessly high for e-books,” the online retailer wrote in a 31 January statement. “Amazon customers will at that point decide for themselves whether they believe it’s reasonable to pay $14.99 for a bestselling book.”
Apple is reportedly engaged in a number of deals with book publishers and studios for content, placing booksellers such as Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble in a position where they will feel compelled to match these agreements’ terms in order to prevent the iPad and its related ecosystem from penetrating too far into the e-reader space.
Apple has already begun showing ads for the iPad: A 30-second television spot highlights the tablet PC’s multiple uses as a media player, e-reader, scheduler and e-mail platform. Around 150,000 applications will be available for the iPad upon its release, according to the Apple Website, a slight rise from the 140,000 predicted during the device’s 27 January product unveiling. One of those applications will be from Barnes & Noble; Amazon.com has not yet announced plans for a similar iPad-ready Kindle application. According to the Kindle site, a Kindle for Mac application is “coming soon.”