Borders to Battle Amazon, Apple in Crowded E-book Market

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Borders to Battle Amazon, Apple in Crowded E-Book Market

Bookstore chain Borders announced Wednesday it has opened its own online marketplace called Borders eBooks. And like its competitors, Borders eBooks will vie for market dominance by running on a multitude of devices, including PCs and Macs, Kobo and Sony e-readers, Apple's iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch, and soon on Blackberry and Android gadgets.

It's getting harder to keep track of all the e-book stores popping up online. Borders joins Amazon's Kindle Store, Apple's iBookstore, Barnes & Noble's Nook site, and the Sony Reader Store. All told that's five major competitors vying for your e-book buying dollar. Let's hope keep our fingers crossed these e-book marketplaces compete on price - competition is driving e-reader prices down.

Borders has partnered with Kobo, a global e-reading service that will operate the bookseller's online store. (In fact, Borders Group is one of Kobo's financial backers.) Kobo also makes a no-frills e-reader (e.g., no keyboard, touchscreen, search tools, apps, and other essentials) that Borders sells for $150, a price that seems high now that the more sophisticated Kindle and Nook cost just a few dollars more.

Amazon and Barnes & Noble cut their e-reader prices last month, and Sony followed suit yesterday.

Borders to Battle Amazon, Apple in Crowded E-Book Market
Most of Borders e-books are in the in ePub format, although some titles will have Adobe PDF and mobile-specific versions too. Unlike its leading competitors--specifically Amazon and Apple--Borders' e-bookstore won't sell digital magazines or newspapers, at least not right away. Borders' customers probably won't mind, as much of that journalistic content is available for free on the Web, at least for now.

Since Borders' store has more than one million titles, there's no shortage of content, even for readers with eclectic tastes. The big question, however, is how Borders will distinguish itself in the e-bookstore war. With three fierce competitors--Amazon, Apple, and Barnes & Noble--already open for business, Borders will need to stir up trouble to lure visitors to its site.

OK, examples. How about slashing the Kobo e-reader to $99, an online-only price available exclusively at Borders' e-store? Or Borders could one-up Barnes & Noble's LendMe policy, which lets Nook owners lend e-books for up to 14 days. (Borders' customers can't lend e-books or give them as gifts to friends.) A third option: Allow Borders' customers to buy the printed and digital edition of a title at the same time. Currently, that's a no-no too.

Granted, publishers may balk at some of these ideas, but the cutthroat competition in the burgeoning e-book market is bound to change some minds.

Contact Jeff Bertolucci via Twitter (@jbertolucci ) or at .

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