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Barnes & Noble eyes ebook market share with updated app

Barnes & Noble Inc. is targeting greater market share for its nook ereader platform with an upgraded and rebranded iPhone application.

The nook by Barnes & Noble application boasts new features such as cross-device syncing and a book-lending feature, and drives traffic to the company’s mobile commerce site. All of Barnes & Noble’s mobile applications, which had previously been called “BN eReader,” now carry the nook brand.

“Barnes & Noble is committed to ongoing development of our nook family of eReading apps,” said Doug Gottlieb, vice president of digital products for Barnes&, New York. “The updates bring a host of new features and improvements, many of which were driven by customer feedback and requests.

“Nook for iPhone is a completely new app, re-written from the ground up, and brings support for the industry standard ePub content format,” he said. “But perhaps the most obvious change to all our apps is that we’ve re-branded them under the banner, ‘nook, by Barnes & Noble.’

“‘Nook’ has really resonated with our customers, and we’re reacting to that.”

The bookseller launched its nook brand last year with the release of an ereader device, and has been expanding the platform via mobile applications since then.

“The adoption rate has been phenomenal,” Mr. Gottlieb said. “We re-entered the ebook space in July of last year, and in this short time we’ve already garnered some 20 percent of the overall eReading market – or more, by some counts.

“Interestingly, our 727 bricks-and-mortar stores have been an incredible boon in all of this,” he said. “People really do want to try before they buy.

“But most importantly, they have a friendly neighborhood bookseller to visit if they have after-purchase questions, or just need help finding their next great read, which is what our 40,000 booksellers do best.”

App upgrades
The nook iPhone application is available for free in Apple’s App Store.

In order to use the application, users must first register an account for free with Barnes and Noble.

The application homepage includes clickable icons for all books users have purchased through their nook account.

Users can access the Barnes & Noble mobile commerce site by clicking on the “Shop Barnes & Nobel” icon near the top of the home page.

Here is a screen grab of the application’s homepage:

If readers have not yet downloaded a book from their account onto their iPhone device, they simply click the download button imposed over the book’s cover on the homepage to begin the quick process.

Any ebook purchased through Barnes & Noble can be accessed on any device with the nook application.

“Customers have told us that they love the ability to move seamlessly between devices,” Mr. Gottlieb said. “It is incredibly convenient to have a book that you’re enjoying on your iPad at home available to you on your iPhone when you’re out and on the go.

Barnes & Noble has also integrated a new book-lending feature called LendMe.

Using the feature, readers can share eligible ebooks (marked with the LendMe icon) with other nook users for up to 14 days.

“We are already seeing that our industry-exclusive LendMe ebook-sharing feature is bringing new customers to nook,” Mr. Gottlieb said. “We’re proud that our partners in the publishing community have entrusted us to test ebook lending.

“Early results are very promising,” he said. “Lending is indeed helping to drive sales and is a great differentiator for Barnes & Noble.”

Readers can view books in either landscape or portrait mode, and turn pages by swiping their fingers across the screen or tapping on the page margins.

In addition, users can use a built-in dictionary featrue by touching and holding down their fingers over words they are not familiar with.

Pages can be marked by tapping on a plus sign in the bottom-right corner of any page.

Users can also hold their finger on a word and drag down the page to highlight passages or make notes.

Any marked pages or notes are accessible by clicking on the “Go To” button at the top of any page.

Notes written or pages marked in Barnes & Noble ebooks are also available across any nook-enabled device.

Ebook revolution
Borders launched a new ebook store and applications for Android and BlackBerry last month (see story), while Amazon extended its Kindle application to Android (see story).

Likewise, Barnes & Noble has pursued an aggressive ebook strategy that includes a mobile-optimized Web site, applications for the iPad and Android devices, in addition to the new iPhone offering (see story).

 “Ebooks are the biggest thing to happen to reading since Guttenberg,” Mr. Gottlieb said. “The portability alone is a game changer.

“Having hundreds of books in your pocket everywhere you go is incredible,” he said. “We’re committed to making ebooks easy and affordable for our customers.”

Final Take
Peter Finocchiaro, editorial assistant at Mobile Commerce Daily, New York