I like these rumors: The Wall Street Journal is reporting that bookstore behemoth Barnes & Noble will soon start selling its own e-reader device, and Gizmodo has a tip that said device will run Google’s Android OS. For all the things that are good about Amazon’s Kindle, it suffers from being a sophisticated electronic device designed by a company whose expertise doesn’t lay in designing sophisticated electronic devices. By going with an existing operating system, Barnes & Noble could avoid doing a lot of heavy technical lifting, and would be able to leverage all the things that Android is already capable of doing.
B&N, not surprisingly, isn’t confirming the scuttlebutt. It told Reuters:
We have made no announcement about an electronic reader…We believe readers should have access to books in their digital library from any device, anywhere and anytime.
The company is indeed putting its digital eggs in multiple baskets: It’s powering e-book stores for the iRex and Plastic Logic devices, and has released an iPhone app. Unlike Amazon.com, it’s supporting the ePub standard, which will let you buy a book from B&N and read it on any other ePub device, including ones that the company has nothing to do with.
At the moment, Amazon remains the only superpower of the e-book world (well, maybe Sony too, but let’s see how its latest round of devices do). Consumers will benefit if there’s at least one other company that comes out with a really spectacular device and does a spectacular job of selling it. Maybe Amazon’s recent Kindle price cut and international rollout were pre-emptive strikes against an imminent B&N reader?