B&N opens e-book chapter

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With an eye toward the expected growth in what is currently a $1 million annual market for e-books, Barnes & Noble Inc. has launched an online portal for selling electronic books that currently has more than 700,000 titles and is expected to grow to 1 million titles within the next year.

Amazon.com currently quotes only about 300,000 titles available for its proprietary e-reader device, the Kindle.

Barnes & Noble's move is the latest in a series of developments this summer in the increasingly competitive e-book and e- reader categories. Google recently announced plans to launch a program by the end of the year that will allow consumers to purchase access to digital versions of books via any Web-enabled computer, e-reader or mobile phone.

Also, Amazon.com recently launched the Kindle DX. The e-commerce giant is supposedly also working on putting ads in e-books, according to industry reports.

Customers downloading books from Barnes & Noble's e-bookstore will be able to read them on several devices including the iPhone and Blackberry smartphones and most laptops. The company will be adding additional devices, including an exclusive agreement with the Plastic Logic e-reader device for business professionals.

For Barnes & Noble, the new e-bookstore is the first phase of a digital strategy, according to statements from William Lynch, president of BN.com.

In a conference call with the media, Lynch didn't rule out the possibility that Barnes & Noble might sell e-readers in the future and might expand into selling digital textbooks. "We haven't made any announcements," answered Lynch when queried on both topics during the conference call with the media.

E-book purchases are currently excluded from Barnes & Noble's customer loyalty program, Lynch said. However, the company is looking at ways to incorporate these purchases into the program.

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