Borders jumps into e-bookstore game

Competes with Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com, among others

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Borders Group Inc. today launched an e-book store with 1.5 million titles, coming somewhat late to the game but committed to grabbing a 17% share of the market within a year.

The company will compete most directly with Barnes & Noble Inc., which already runs an e-book store and sells e-books over several devices, including its own Nook.

Borders and Barnes & Noble both come from the traditional brick-and-mortar bookstore world. Borders owns more than 670 stores in the U.S. and Barnes & Noble has 720 stores and manages another 637 college bookstores.

Amazon.com is the major competitor that both Borders and Barnes & Noble face in the e-book market. Those three companies are already waging a pitched battle e-reader in the e-reader market, vying to see who can sell the lowest-priced device with a 6-inch screen. Amazon's Kindle is selling at $189 with 3G wireless connectivity. A Barnes & Noble Nook with 3G and Wi-Fi sells for $199, and a Wi-Fi-only version is priced at $149.

Borders recently introduced the Kobo e-reader with a 6-inch screen for $149.99. The device uses Bluetooth wireless to connect to a smartphone and it has a USB port to connect to another device, such as a desktop computer.

Borders Group CEO Michael J. Edwards contended that the race to be the best retail bookseller with e-books is "just starting," a clear reference to Barnes & Noble, which entered the game last year and launched the Nook before Christmas. "During the past several months, we've been carefully crafting a digital strategy," he said. "We believe we are well positioned to come out strong and to ultimately claim about a 17% e-book market share by this time next year."

Borders boasts some of the same attributes as Barnes & Noble. For example, both allow customers to buy e-books using a range of devices. In addition to the Kobo e-reader, Borders recently began selling the Aluratek Libre eBook Reader Pro for $119, as well as Borders iPhone and iPad apps. Today, Borders said it will also support BlackBerry and Android e-readers.

The Borders e-reader software is provided by Kobo Inc., a Toronto-based e-book seller that is backed by Indigo Books & Music, Borders Group, RedGroup Retail and Cheung Kong Holdings.

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.

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