Monday, July 27, 2009

B&N free eBook reader

Barnes & Noble are currently giving away free eBook readers along with 6 free eBooks.

Now, don't get too excited! This is not a free handheld device like the Kindle or Sony's eReader... rather it's a free application for your iPhone, Blackberry or as a desktop application for pc & Mac. They promise to have it available for more handheld devices soon.

According to their FAQ, they will also be incorporating DRM:

"The Barnes & Noble eReader is an application used to read Barnes & Noble eBooks on your iPhone, Blackberry, Windows PC or Mac. Without it, you will not be able to read Barnes & Noble eBooks. Our eBooks are encrypted to protect the authors' work. Thus, other eBook Readers will not work with Barnes & Noble eBooks. The Barnes & Noble eReader can display styled text (italicized, underlined, etc.) and formatting as well as perform functions not found on other eBook readers. The Barnes & Noble eReader is FREE and is supported on multiple devices."

Like Amazon's Kindle, downloaded ebooks from B&N are for use on B&N eReaders only. Barnes & Noble also state that you can only download .pdb or prc files, although they have partnered with Google Books to permit downloading of the many free public domain books.

But the bottom line is: the B&N eReader only reads their eBooks, and their eBooks can only be read on their eReader. For now. Next year sees the planned launch of Plastic Logic, rumored to be partnering with B&N's new eBookstore (although officially partnered with according to their website).

On the whole, I don't think it's a great leap for the giant that is Barnes & Noble & I would have expected something a little more exciting from them. On the other hand, eReader competition is creeping into the market, and that's got to be a good thing for the consumer, right? Maybe not. If companies keep adding DRM that prevents reading an eBook from one company on an eReader from another, there's not a lot to make them price competitive with eBook prices. I'd like to see them all treat eBooks more like books.... I can buy a paperback book from Borders and read it in the B&N Starbucks. I can buy a DVD and play it on any DVD player. But instead they are treating it more like Betamax versus VHS - and we all know how that worked out.

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