To counter the threat of serious industry disruption, Barnes & Noble
B&N announced the unveiling of its own digital bookstore, offering prices on bestsellers that will compete with those of rivals. The company will offer e-books for a variety of devices, including Apple's
So far, e-books have made the biggest splash with Amazon.com's
Although Amazon doesn't reveal sales data for the Kindle, it has admitted that when a Kindle version of a book is available, a formidable 35% of its sales come from the e-book version. Its sleek device seems to have kindled interest in e-books in general.
The book industry has been struggling in this recessionary environment, but the sale of e-books soared 110% in March, and 131% for the year. Even though e-books still represent a small part of the total market, their popularity's clearly catching on.
Barnes & Noble plans to have 1 million e-books available within a year, a figure that includes the half-million or so books Google
It makes sense for Barnes & Noble to get into the competitive fray in order to drive incremental revenue, especially if it doesn't have to take on the effort and expense of developing its own electronic reader. E-books seem like the way of the future, and the publishing and bookselling industries need to position themselves for the same sort of digital-delivery deluge the music industry has long grappled with.
Still, nobody should underestimate Amazon's power; the Kindle will probably keep its firm grasp on book fans, and Amazon has shown tremendous adaptability over the years. Barnes & Noble has no choice but to try to wedge its way into this nascent but growing space. I'll be interested to see whether it can take some of the wind out of Amazon's sails.
Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. The Fool has a disclosure policy.