Thursday, May 27, 2010

Barnes & Noble debuts iPad app; Borders reports 15.4% decline in revenue, Kobo e-reader set for June launch

Critics of the iPad have pointed to the fact that Apple's iBookstore has not turned every iPad users into a book loving intellectual, pointing to somewhat disappointing sales within the iBookstore. This is probably true, not everyone is buying their iPads in order to read Kierkegaard (gee, why not?).
But if Danish philosophers are your thing, there is good news this morning as you now have a new source for your books. Barnes & Noble, who recently updated their own e-reader, the NOOK, has launched their own iPad app.

Like the Kindle app from Amazon, the app is simply a way to organize and read your online purchases with the iPad. Once you have downloaded the free app you are requested to either sign-in to your existing account or else create a new account. The process is easy and does not require a credit card immediately. Buying a book then becomes an online experience rather than an in-app experience.

Although one downloader complained about a lack of display controls in the app they must have been an Amazon employee because the controls are there. While the B&N app doesn't have a screen brightness slider the way the Kindle app does, it actually has far more controls (just kidding). B&N uses Themes, as well as font style and size controls, so there are more than enough controls inside this app, in my opinion (especially for a first version).

With at least three good apps now available for the iPad, book lovers will be comparison shopping. The book I'm reading now, The Publisher: Henry Luce and His American Century, is currently $26.00 for the eBook edition online at Barnes & Noble.  Buying it for the Kindle, or for reading on the iPad with the Kindle app, will cost you $19.25.  Buying the book through Apple's iBookstore is impossible, of course, because Random House, which owns the Knopf line has not signed up with Apple.

Left: Sign-in page greets app users; Middle: buyers must purchase online through the Safari browser, not with-in the app itself; Right: a look at the Themes that help control the look and feel of the reading experience.

So, what's going on with Borders, right?

This morning Borders Group reported that revenue had declined 15.4 percent for the quarter which ended May 1. Worse, despite cost cutting, the company reported a $64.1 million loss -- better than a year ago, however. In the last year the company has closed 214 bookstores -- no doubt contributing to the revenue decline. But in an era of cheap books, Borders (and B&N) are expensive options.

On June 17 Borders will be introducing their own e-reader, the Kobo. More than one reporter has said that the device will be competing with the Kindle, NOOK and iPad, but I fail to see how an e-ink reader will be competing with Apple's device -- they are totally different devices, surely everyone gets that by now.

The Kobo is a joint venture between Indigo Books & Music and Borders Group and will be priced at $149.99.