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Barnes & Noble Launches eBook Site, iPhone App

7/21/2009 09:22:04 AM Eastern

New York - Barnes & Noble launched a counterassault on Amazon.com, unveiling an e-bookstore with 700,000 books that it claimed is the largest e-bookstore to date.
In addition, BN.com will be compatible with many smartphones and computer devices, and it will provide the exclusive e-bookstore for the Plastic Logic e-reader, due early next year.  
BN.com will sell new e-book releases and best-selling e-titles at $9.99 — the same price charged by Amazon.com — and expects the e-store will expand to over one million titles within the year.
The selection features more than a half-million public domain books from Google, including many classic titles, that may be downloaded for free.  
The e-bookstore will support both wireless and wired access to its titles, and will work with iPhones, BlackBerrys, most laptops and PCs, including Macs, said the bookstore.
Barnes & Noble also recently launched a bookstore app for the iPhone and iPod Touch, which is ranked as the No. 1 downloaded book app in Apple's store, said the bookseller.  The app lets users snap a photo of the cover of a book to retrieve book information from the e-bookstore. Users can place orders for movies and CDs as well as books or a reserve copies at the nearest store.
"Today marks the first phase of our digital strategy, which is rooted in the belief that readers should have access to the books in their digital library from any device, from anywhere, at any time," said Lynch.
BN.com lets users adjust the type size and font of their e-books and turn pages hands-free through an auto-scroll feature. Users can also shift from reading on a smartphone to a PC while retaining their place.
In March, Barnes & Noble purchased e-book seller Fictionwise, which Lynch called the most experienced e-bookseller in the world "and the only one able to support virtually every wireless and electronic platform."  
Barnes & Noble said it was one of the first to enter the e-book marketplace in 2001, but at that time, "demand was quite low for e-books," said Lynch at press conference late Monday.
Lynch said the overall book business totals approximately $25 billion in the U.S. and some analysts said e-books represent about 1 percent of those sales.  
Lynch would not comment on whether BN.com will sell the Plastic Logic e-reader, but said its site will support more devices in the future. Plastic Logic is a much anticipated device as it is expected to be the size of a full sheet of paper, but ultra thin, so it can display newspapers and magazines more readily than most e-readers.
BN.com will support the ePub format, which the company called the "industry's default standard."
Barnes & Noble claimed that 77 million readers shop at its stores.