Barnes & Noble returned to the ebook business in a big way yesterday, announcing that it was launching the "worlds' largest eBookstore" as well as a partnership with e-reader maker Plastic Logic, saying that "...it will be the exclusive eBookstore provider on the forthcoming and much anticipated Plastic Logic eReader device." (Read the press release.)
B&N claims to offer over 700,000 ebook titles, but then also mentions offering half-a-million public domain books from Google. Whether that half a million is included in the 700,000 figure is not clear.
Also mentioned is an updated version of its BN eReader application, which it refers to as "device-agnostic." Device-agnostic in this case means it runs under Windows, Mac OS X, iPhones and Blackberries, though the B&N eBook site has this note: "Don't see your phone? We'll be adding a bunch in the coming weeks." Linux users, including all the linux-based netbook owners out there, apparently are out of luck. According to Engadget, the Amazon Kindle and Sony Reader will not be supported. The Kindle is understandable, but cutting the Sony Reader out seems questionable, though it may be a technical limitation. The BN eReader only reads .pdb files.
As to the Plastic Logic device (which we've talked about before) it's a wireless, large-format (8.5" x 11") e-ink device schedule to launch in early 2010. It sounds like it'll be locked to the Barnes & Noble store in much the same way that the Kindle is locked to the Amazon store. After Amazon's blunder last week, having a hardware device locked to a particular retailer doesn't seem like such an enticing idea.
Having to own two separate hardware devices (Kindle and the Plastic Logic e-reader) to purchase e-books from two stores (Amazon and Barnes & Noble) seems like the height of folly if the industry is really interested in hardware e-book readers taking off. The 'melting pot' device seems to be the iPhone, since it will run BN Reader and Kindle for iPhone. Maybe the heavily rumored Apple Tablet will wind up being the ultimate e-reader!