It’s no news that the ebook arena has been heating up for the last 6 months. First with the hype prior to the launch of the Nook, then the actual launch.
In the last week or so, I have received a series of emails from ebook vendors hinting at what could be seen as the Barnes & Noble global ebook strategy. Even though my sources have requested to remain anonymous, what they have mentioned to me is also supported by information out in the open. So, knowing that their comments to me can be easily confirmed with public information (just needed to know where to look for it).
Recently, flurry of ebook readers from third parties have been released, they are able to read more formats, have about the same features as both the Kindle and the Nook and they may or may not have different forms of communication. Some use OTA (over the air connection) provided by cell carriers, some have WiFi, others (the more basic ones) need to connect to a PC in order to receive new ebooks. The most important feature; their screens are pretty much the same, they all use e-ink screens that looks great: both indoors and outdoors. The only differentiating factor in this feature is whether they have more or less resolution.
Early in December, eReader.com (a BN company) sent an email to their customers announcing that they would be selling an ebook reader from Foxit called the eSlick. This reader had already been out for sale from Foxit. The great part of this offer was that if you purchase the eSlick for $259, you get the whopping $100 in credit for purchasing ebooks from eReader.com! Their offer is still valid, click here to check it out. Most of their books are under the typical $9.99 from other sites. They also have a points structure where you get points for every Dollar you spend, using these points for lowering your purchase price for further discounts.
At the same time, Fictionwise.com (another BN company) did the exact same thing, including the $100 for ebooks. You can see their offer (which is still valid) by clicking here. Their websites look almost exactly the same.
A few days later, both companies complemented their offer by adding the Jetbook Lite from Ectaco a slightly smaller and more basic reader. They are selling this ebook reader for $150 and you get $50 for purchasing ebooks. Again both eReader and Fictionwise are offering the same sale. You can see them here and here respectively.
Additionally, I have commented before that BN had purchased the company eReader to use their ebook reader software for mobile devices. Which they are already porting from the “eReader user interface” to the “BN user interface”. So far, they have ported the software for Windows, MacOS, iPhone/iPod Touch and BlackBerry with additional versions announced for Android and Windows Mobile underway. In the mean time, eReader.com has versions of their ebook reader software for Windows, MacOS, Windows Mobile Smartphone, Windows Mobile Professional, Pocket PC PDAs, PalmOS, BlackBerry, Symbian and Android.
If the Apple Tablet is released this year, BN’s development of the iPhone eReader app will already support ebooks from BN’s collection. If the software is tweaked a bit, it could potentially support magazines and take advantage of the larger screen the iSlate has to offer.
Finally, Fictionwise.com is doing something that shows how BN is approaching this new business from all possible angles and may win over Amazon’s Kindle. They are now also offering a “Kindle ebook Store” where you can essentially purchase Barnes and Noble books to read on an Amazon Kindle device. You can check it out here.
BN may have taken its time to release an ebook reader, but it has certainly completed their due diligence. They are not putting all their eggs in one basket. They are trying multiple approaches to see which one works best. Best of all, they are also eating Amazon’s share of the ebooks sold for Kindle itself. At the same time they have these two different websites: eReader and Fictionwise; that can be used to try these new approaches without eroding into Barnes & Noble’s credibility.