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BlackBerry eReader Released, Android Next

BlackBerry fans rejoice: the beta test release of eReader for BlackBerry has just been released and Android and Linux versions are soon to follow, according to Fictionwise, the company that makes the software. Bookseller Barnes and Noble (NYSE: BKS) purchased Fictionwise earlier this month.

EReader is a free application used to read books on mobile devices and smartphones; it's already gained popularity on Apple's iPhone and iPod touch. The BlackBerry beta is available at Fictionwise.com. It works with any Research In Motion BlackBerry released within the past few years, Barnes & Noble said.

Using wireless access to the eReader.com catalog, digital bookworms can browse titles, make purchases and download books directly to their BlackBerrys. Users may access their own personal bookshelves directly from their devices, giving them the ability to pick and choose from their entire collection of eBook titles they have purchased from eReader.com or Fictionwise.com.

The new BlackBerry version of eReader also allows readers to change font sizes. It also includes navigation features such as bookmarks, linked Table of Contents, and simplified text search.

And, there's more eReader news on tap in coming months. "Fictionwise has announced in the past that we are developing both Linux and Android versions of the eReader software, and both of these important platforms are expected to be launched in a summer timeframe," Steve Pendergrast, president of Fictionwise, told InternetNews.com.

Marketwide, the eReader is available for 300 handhelds and cell phones, giving access to 60,000 titles at eReader.com, including popular fiction. The app works on Palm, Windows Mobile, PocketPC and Symbian smartphones, and even Windows and Mac laptops or full sized computers.

The Digital book battle

The news comes at a time when the digital book battle is being fought on multiple fronts. Sony and Google just partnered upto bolster Sony's digital reader division, while Amazon is creating brisk business around its own e-reader, the Kindle.

"This acquisition gives B&N a solid competitive product for e-book content and distribution and helps them compete more aggressively with Amazon and Sony," said Tim Bajarin, president and principal analyst with Creative Strategies.

"This particular acquisition has been in the works for awhile so I doubt that the Sony Google deal forced them in this direction," he added. "However, with Amazon and Sony getting more focused on being a store/portal for e-books to be sold, they needed to be more aggressive with their offering and this move makes sure they are not left behind as the e-book market takes off. "

The Sony deal marked the first time Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) has made its collection of scanned, public domain books available and optimized for an e-reader. It also means Sony's (NYSE: SNE) available digital library now numbers around 600,000 titles, which puts it above Amazon's Kindle-compatible library of about 245,000 titles.

However, Bajarin said that Amazon is still positioned to be the pioneer in profiting from the digital book market, due to its wireless e-commerce and synchronizing features, and its new iPhone app.

Finally, in other e-book news, an overseas communications firm is suing Apple for promoting its iPhone handset as a touchscreen digital book reader, a concept it claims to have patented over seven years ago, according to AppleInsider.com.

Berne, Switzerland-based Monec Holding filed a suit last week in a Virginia district court accusing Apple of patent infringement and unfair trade practices for allegedly copying its patent filed in 2002 titled "Electronic device, preferably an electronic book," according to AppleInsider.com.

Susan Lundgren, a spokesperson for Apple's legal team, did not return calls asking for comment on the suit.