Bookseller Barnes & Noble reportedly plans to release its own e-book reader to challenge Amazon.com's Kindle.
The wireless device, which is expected to have a 6-inch touch screen and virtual keyboard, could be offered for sale as early as next month, according to a Wall Street Journal report on Thursday that cited people briefed on the matter. A price range was not revealed.
A representative for Barnes & Noble, the nation's largest brick-and-mortar bookseller, declined to comment on whether such a device was in the works.
"We have made no announcement of an e-book reader device," said Mary Ellen Keating, senior vice president of corporate communications and public affairs, pointing out that the company was already supporting a variety of e-book reader devices. However, she declined to comment specifically on whether Barnes & Noble was developing its own device.
Barnes & Noble announced in July that it was returning to the e-book market with the launch of its own digital-book store, which allows customers to read digital books on an array of different platforms, including the iPhone, the iPod Touch, and BlackBerry smartphones. Barnes & Noble is also expected to be the exclusive digital-book supplier for the upcoming Plastic Logic eReader, which is not scheduled to go on sale until next year.
However, if the reports prove accurate, the device should compete directly with Amazon's new Kindle 2, which the online retail giant unveiled earlier this week. The new version also sports a 6-inch screen and wireless downloads, and is expected to be available on October 19.
Amazon also announced that it is cutting the price of the device by $40, to $259, and bringing it more in line with Sony's Reader Pocket Edition, which sells for $199. The retailer also announced an international version that would allow customers to download books in more than 100 countries outside the United States.
Although a bit late to the market, a Barnes & Noble device would join an expected boom in the e-book reader sales. In a report released Wednesday, Forrester Research raised its 2009 forecast for e-reader sales in the United States to 3 million units from its previous prediction of 2 million sales. Forrester also expects Amazon's Kindle to command about 60 percent of the e-reader market in 2009, compared with 35 percent for Sony's Reader.
The revelation that the device may be powered by Android comes as the 2-year-old operating system rides a wave of support from wireless handset makers. In the past couple of months, nine devices using Android have been announced, including the Motorola Cliq, which goes on sale in November, and the new Samsung Moment, which was announced Wednesday at the CTIA Fall 2009 trade show.