Rumor: eBook Reader from Barnes & Noble

TheStreet.com: What is the #1 bookseller in the US? Amazon? Guess again. It’s Barnes & Noble. And the company is rumored to be working with a device integrator and Sprint to manufacture a Kindle-like ebook reader. Amazon also uses EV-DO data connectivity from Sprint for its Kindle ebook reader. Of course, Sprint is not a done deal. There is also AT&T. Talks with Verizon Wireless ended according to a wireless industry insider.

Why is Barnes & Noble jumping into the ebook reader market? One word: profits. Amazon is expected generate a gross profit of US63 million on revenues of US$285 million in 2009 via the Kindle according to analyst Sandeep Aggarwal at Collins Stewart. That’s a good bit of profits!

Let’s come back to the original question of who is the largest bookseller in the US. My guess is that Amazon sells a whole bunch more books online than Barnes & Noble. Amazon is probably the largest online bookstore in the world. And that might be the difference between big success and lukewarm success/failure for an ebook device like a Kindle.

Amazon customers are used to purchasing books online. Barnes & Noble customers probably not as much. The leap from purchasing books online to purchasing ebooks online is much smaller than the leap that Barnes & Noble customers will have to make: purchase books at brick & mortar stores to purchase ebooks online.

The Kindle isn’t pefect. It isn’t very easy (is it possible?) to get documents, newspaper clips, magazines, books, etc. that you created or own transfered to the Kindle. The Kindle doesn’t have touch capability: you still have to push buttons to flip through pages. If Barnes & Nobles can build a sexy and competent ebook reader with a persistent connection to its online bookstore, add features that allow for easy transfer of your own content, and add touch, it might have a fighting chance to become a big success.

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