eBooks are heating up: Barnes & Noble buys Fictionwise

Posted on March 8, 2009. Filed under: Tech News | Tags: , , |

By Brad Linder, Downloadsquad.com

fictionwise

There’s a lot of news in the eBook space these days. First Amazon launches the new Kindle 2 eBook reader. Then the company follows it up with the launch of an eBook app for the iPhone. But Amazon ain’t the only game in town.

Yesterday Barnes & Noble announced that it was acquiring eBook seller Fictionwise for $15.7 million. B&N plans to launch its own eBook store later this year, and will likely use Fictionwise’s technology to help build that site. The company will not be shutting down Fictionwise.com or eReader.com.

Electronic books have been available in one form or another for years. But they’ve really started to take off in the last few years. Not so long ago, most of the text-based books that were available for download from the internet were either public domain works or illegally scanned books. But we’re increasingly seeing new releases available for downloading and viewing on cellphones, PDAs, eBook readers, and computers for fairly reasonable prices.

Technologically, it’s surprising that digital books didn’t take off before digital music. After all, you can fit most books in just a few hundred kilobytes, which makes them easy to store and distribute. Developers had to come up with heavy compression algorithms to shrink audio and video files for distribution over the internet, and even then it took huge advances in hard drive capacity and broadband access for digital music and video to take off.

But over the last few years we’ve seen companies like Sony and Amazon put a lot of effort into developing hardware that makes reading eBooks more like reading a paper book and that’s probably made a big difference. Some people just never liked the idea of reading books on a computer or cellphone screen. And then there are concerns over copyright issues.

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