B&N.com Pulls Plug on E-Bookstore

In what amounts to a major blow to the electronic publishing sector, New
York-based online bookseller BarnesandNoble.com
announced it would stop selling e-books because of poor sales and limited
technology.

BarnesandNoble.com, the online arm of the bookseller giant, made the
surprising announcement in an e-mail to customers which urged that purchases
be downloaded before December 9. The decision to pull the plug on e-book
sales comes exactly three years after BarnesandNoble.com launched its
e-bookstore
in a technology partnership with Microsoft .

Since then, the company has been an aggressive player in the electronic
publishing space, going a step further in 2001 with the rollout of BarnesandNoble
Digital
, an electronic publishing imprint. That move put the bookseller
into a new role as book publisher by creating a direct link between authors
and their readers.

That move, along with a crucial deal with
Adobe
hinted at BarnesandNoble’s strength in the nascent sector, where
published works are delivered in easy-to-read formats to handheld digital
devices.

But, it appears the market was not as lucrative as the company originally
envisaged. “The market hasn’t developed quickly enough…The product isn’t
user friendly, or price friendly,” BarnesandNoble CEO Marie Toulantis told
the Wall Street Journal.

Toulantis said publishers failed to make enough of a pricing distinction
between hardcovers and their e-book counterparts, effectively softening the
market. BarnesandNoble officials did not return calls seeking additional
comment.

There is speculation in the publishing industry that the
BarnesandNoble.com move was linked to rival Amazon.com’s
decision to roll out a full-text searching feature at its Web storefront.
The new Amazon.com tool, dubbed “Look Inside V2,” will allow keyword
searches on full-text of books, a feature that’s sure to be a hit with
online shoppers.

Amazon.com has been BarnesandNoble.com’s main competitor in the
marketplace and an aggressive pricing strategy for e-books has hurt
Barnes&Noble’s bottom line.

Yahoo also has an e-book sales section on its
shopping section as part of a deal with four major publishing houses —
Penguin Putnam, Simon & Schuster, Random House and HarperCollins.

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