Barnes & Noble launches its iPad e-reader app

Software makes it possible to share a book with a friend on another device

Barnes & Noble Inc. today finally introduced an e-reader app for the iPad, nearly two months after the bookseller had said that it planned to release such an app "around the time" of the April 3 launch of Apple's tablet.

The free app will be the only iPad e-reader that allows a user to share an e-book with a friend, Barnes & Noble said in a statement.

The new BN eReader for iPad gives users the ability to shop for more than 1 million e-books, newspapers and magazines in the Barnes & Noble online bookstore. The company has made its e-book store accessible to users of a variety of computing and mobile devices, including PCs, Macs, iPhones and BlackBerries.

In a March blog post, Paul Hochman an administrator at BN.com, said the iPad e-reader would appear "around the time of iPad's expected availability." Barnes & Noble officials did not respond to explain the delay. The BN iPad e-reader was supposed to launch along with updates to software for other devices that Barnes & Noble supports, but there was no mention of those updates in today's announcement.

The iPad's e-reader software competes with Barnes & Noble's own Nook e-reader hardware, which has been widely reported to be improving in sales in recent months, although the top e-reader is Amazon.com's Kindle.

The LendMe feature that originally was unique to the Nook has been included in the iPad e-reader app. That means that certain e-books deemed eligible can be shared with one friend for 14 days on an iPad, a Nook, an iPhone, an iPod Touch or a PC with free BN e-reader software.

The e-reader market continues to grow worldwide, with dozens of devices expected to launch by year's end. Computer maker Acer Inc. today in Beijing showed a prototype tablet and a separate e-reader device called LumiRead with a 6-inch e-ink display. It will go on sale in the U.S. sometime in the third quarter. Acer did not disclose pricing.

While the iPad is not only an e-reader, it is widely considered the device to watch in the e-reader market, with its full-color, 9.7-in. touchscreen. A recent survey of e-reader owners by research firm ChangeWave revealed that in just a few weeks after its launch, the iPad quickly became the No. 2 most popular e-reader, behind the Kindle.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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