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Barnes & Noble To Launch e-Bookstore

3/06/2009 02:19:00 PM Eastern

New York — Barnes & Noble plans to open an e-bookstore later this year and toward that end it has acquired Fictionwise, an e-book seller, for $15.7 million in cash.

In addition to the closing purchase price, Fictionwise may receive earn-out payments for achieving certain performance targets over the next two years.

Fictionwise claims to be one of the oldest and largest e-book retailers with tens of thousands of e-books that support many different electronic reading formats, and it includes titles that are unencrypted. The site also claims hundreds of thousands of customers.

Barnes & Noble intends to keep Fictionwise as a separate business unit, and the founders Steve and Scott Pendergrast will continue to operate the business, it said.

 The announcement comes as the e-book market appears to be heating up. Amazon just opened up its e-book Kindle store to Apple iPhone and iPod Touch users, and Hearst is expected to offer an e-reader for its newspaper and magazine titles, according to reports.