Barnes & Noble partners with Plastic Logic; Opens up; Targets Kindle

Updated: Barnes & Noble has outlined its answer for Amazon's Kindle: A partnership with Plastic Logic, which will launch an eReader in early 2010, and plans to open its e-book sales to multiple platforms.In a statement Monday, Barnes & Noble said its e-book store will allow customers to buy books and read them on the iPhone, iPod touch, BlackBerry and Windows and Mac PCs.

Updated: Barnes & Noble has outlined its answer for Amazon's Kindle: A partnership with Plastic Logic, which will launch an eReader in early 2010, and plans to open its e-book sales to multiple platforms.

In a statement Monday, Barnes & Noble said its e-book store will allow customers to buy books and read them on the iPhone, iPod touch, BlackBerry and Windows and Mac PCs. Barnes & Noble will also be the exclusive store provider of the Plastic Logic eReader.

In some respects, the e-book move by Barnes & Noble has a back to the future feel to it. "We were the first to enter the e-book market in 2001, but the demand wasn't there," said William J. Lynch Jr., president of Barnesandnoble.com, on a conference call.

The missing element: Pricing for the eReader. Chances are that Plastic Logic's reader will come in under the Kindle's price, which is a bit expensive despite price cuts. For Plastic Logic, the Barnes & Noble deal is a coup that will bolster the eReader's launch. Lynch wouldn't reveal whether Barnes & Noble would sell the Plastic Logic eReader directly. He said "the deal with Plastic Logic is to power an e-book store for device users."

Barnes & Noble appears to be going after Amazon by attacking some of the Kindle's limitations.

Also see: E-reader devices: The fun is just starting

For instance, Barnes & Noble will offer the eReader application---a product of its acquisition of Fictionwise---that supports wireless and wired access. Barnes & Noble also aims for more screens, free downloads and more portability. Lynch added that the Plastic Logic reader won't support the Sony's reader or the Kindle. Lynch called those "proprietary platforms" and said Barnes & Noble would support additional devices shortly.

Lynch also noted that Barnes & Noble will support the open EPub e-book standard, which is "good for the consumer."

Among other items:

  • The Barnes & Noble e-book store will have access to 700,000 titles for $9.99;
  • Public domain books from Google will be available (and are included in the 700,000 title tally);
  • Lynch said that the Barnes & Noble e-book store will top 1 million titles shortly;
  • Barnes & Noble's eReader application is device agnostic.

My take: The big question here is whether the Barnes & Noble partnership with Plastic Logic will truly be disruptive to the Kindle. My hunch is that it will be. Although the Kindle is perceived to be a customer relationship management device by some, the latest flap over DRM is an issue. In addition, no one would call the Kindle cheap by any stretch. By planning on opening its store to more devices and offering an e-reader that's the size of a standard sheet of paper---in between the Kindle 2 and Kindle DX---the Barnes & Noble and Plastic Logic partnership has a good chance.

For instance, the Barnes & Noble-Plastic Logic news is enough to freeze any plans I have to buy a Kindle 2. I was already on the fence thinking an iPod touch would be my next e-reader. What's a few more months to see what Plastic Logic's reader looks like?

The bigger picture here is that the e-reader game is just starting and the market will develop over the next five years or so. Simply put, new devices will continue to emerge. Here's a look at how Forrester Research sees the market developing.

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