August 1, 2010, 12:00 AM

Borders jumps into the e-books fray with a new online bookstore

The retail book chain is rolling an e-book store with 1.5 million titles. “The race to emerge as a retail leader within the digital category is just beginning,” CEO Mike Edwards says. “We are well-positioned to claim about a 17% e-book market share this time next year.”

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The market for electronic books has been turbulent all year as more players enter the field and existing players keep one-upping each other. Now it’s Borders’ turn.

Borders is rolling out a new electronic books store with 1.5 million titles, including thousands of free titles. The books come in a variety of formats, including digital and PDF files, the retailer says.

Borders will offer its 38 million loyalty program members incentives to shop at the e-books store, including gift cards, free shipping on certain items, double loyalty club dollars, also known as Borders Bucks, and exclusive offers on select digital titles.

Eye on market share

The chain retailer says the new electronic books store—and other initiatives such as new iPhone and iPad apps for the Kobo electronic reading device that Borders promotes—will help Borders achieve significant market share by next summer. The Kobo eReader is from Kobo Inc., a company financially backed by Indigo Books & Music, Borders, REDgroup Retail and Cheung Kong Holdings. Borders began offering the Kobo eReader for $149.99 in May.

“The race to emerge as a retail leader within the digital category is just starting,” says Borders CEO Mike Edwards. “We are very well positioned to come out strong and to ultimately claim about a 17% e-book market share by this time next year.”

In conjunction with the new electronic books store, Borders also is introducing new apps for BlackBerry and Android wireless handheld devices. The apps enable users to browse and buy electronic books, search by title, author, topic, or keyword, and access a personalized books library.

To further drive sales, Borders also is setting up areas in its stores that let customers try out a Kobo electronic book reader, converse with a knowledgeable sales associate and download various product demonstrations. “During the past several months, we’ve been carefully crafting a digital strategy, one that has great content and a device-neutral philosophy backed by the Borders brand as its cornerstones,” says Edwards.

The latest electronic books initiatives from Borders ups the ante in the escalating battle among Borders, Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble Inc. and other players to capture more digital book and electronic reader sales. Amazon reduced the price on its top-of-the line Kindle electronic reader to $379 from $489 and also recently cut the price of its base Kindle to $189. Those moves came just after Barnes & Noble reduced the price of its Nook electronic book reader to $199.

mark@verticalwebmedia.com

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