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Barnes & Noble jumps into the eBook pool

Mel Martin

You knew it had to happen, and now it has. Book retailing giant Barnes & Noble, feeling no doubt a bit of pressure from the Amazon Kindle, has launched a free eBook reader for the iPhone and reports are that it is discussing a dedicated eBook reader as well.

The B&N eReader [App Store] is free, and comes with 2 free classic titles (Jane Austen and James Fenimore Cooper), and when you register you get three more. B&N claims they have more than half a million eBooks available.

B&N also is offering a free reader for the Mac and PC so you can read your books on a desktop or laptop computer.

You can change the text color, fonts and font size, and read in portrait or landscape mode.

I have to say that using the iPhone app was a festival of frustration. To do anything I had to create an account. I couldn't even read the free books without an account. To do that I had to give my email and a password. So far, so good. Then it asked me for a good security question. I chose my middle name, but it was rejected because it didn't have enough letters. Thanks Mom and Dad. When it gave me the error, it also removed my email and password so I had to start all over again, as I had to choose another security question. It suggested I answer what kind of car I have. I did, and was promptly rejected again, and had to go back and fill out the form because it erased my already entered email and password again.

I finally straightened all that out, but was hardly in the mood to read anything. Searching for titles was kind of weird. If you select an eBook, (or any other function) you're dumped to Safari and it then says 'search eBooks for:'. Kind of odd nomenclature. Nothing about title, author or subject. I entered photography and it came up with exactly 2 books. 'Flags of our Fathers' for US$6.50 and a book called 'Photography' that was free. There was absolutely no information about the book or what was in it. And the book cover image was missing.

At this point I was mainly interested in books about anger management. but I didn't want to spend the $9.99 to get the one book on the subject in the 'vast' B&N library.

So I tried something by Stephen King. I searched for Just After Sunset. Bingo! They had it in eBook format. $22.40. Hmmm. Seems a bit high. Yep. Kindle Store for the same book -- $9.99 delivered wirelessly.

Do you get my drift here? This is a bad product debut. It has an onerous and ill-thought out sign up routine, lousy selection and many prices are way too high.

I'd suggest the B&N execs read up on competition and capitalism, if they can find any books on the subject in their damned half a million book collection.

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