Watching Amazon and Barnes & Noble jockey for position in the e-book race has been pretty entertaining. First Amazon essentially had the market to themselves. A few small competitors were floating around, and Sony was dabbling, but the big news was the Kindle hardware (and later, Kindle for iPhone). Then Barnes & Noble announced that it was moving into the space in a big way, and launched the BN eReader, a software product that ran on computers as well as iPhones and Blackberries.
Earlier this week Barnes & Noble announced the Nook, a direct competitor to the Kindle hardware. And now Amazon has announced Kindle for PC, a software e-reader. So we're back to near parity between the rivals, at least in terms of platforms to read on. Barnes & Noble still owns the Mac and Blackberry space, but Amazon.com's Director of Communications Drew Herdener told CNET "We will be coming out with Kindle for Mac in the next few months" and that a Kindle for Blackberry was on the way. So what's next? Android? Who'll get there first?
If you're like me, the idea of reading a book off a traditional computer screen isn't very appealing. I spend enough hours sitting at a computer every day as is. A small laptop or netbook sounds slightly more inviting, but that's still a rather awkward form factor for reading while reclining or even while sitting in an easy chair. Kindle for PC might become more appealing when tablet PCs become more prevalent, but until then it really just feels like Amazon is ticking off a checkbox so that B&N can't claim to have something they don't. Kindle for PC is a non-issue for most of us.
Just to catch up on some other e-reader news, Amazon has consolidated the Kindle line. Instead of a US version for $259 and an International version for $279, we're now back to one 'US & International' version, priced at $259. This is what was being called the International version, which means AT&T is providing the wireless access rather than Sprint. Also the web browser is limited to accessing Wikipedia only, according to Engadget. Amazon says it is sending out $20 refunds to anyone who bought the International version at $279 recently. Nice gesture.
And some bad Nook news. We've talked a lot about the Lending feature. We already knew the ability to lend a book was determined by the publisher, but now it is sounding like even with publisher approval, Nook owners will be able to lend each book they purchase to one person one time. The question was asked on the Barnes & Noble Help Board by user Daithi:
The FAQ says, "You can lend many of your eBooks one time for a maximum of 14 days." Does this mean you can only loan the book out once, PERIOD, and once you have loaned out a book you can NEVER loan it out again, even after the 14 day loan period expires?
And board admin Kristine_S replied:
Yes, that's correct. You can loan each eBook (providing the publisher allows this) one time only, for a period of 14 days, to any B&N eReader-supported device, including nook, Mac, PC, iPhone, iPod Touch, and BlackBerry. During this time you cannot read the eBook yourself. Hope that helps, and thanks for your question.
You can read the whole thread here, but I have to say, this is disappointing news. When will someone offer us an e-reader/e-book system that offers the same flexibility as a hard-copy book!?