Barnes & Noble have announced a free eReader application for the iPad, with versions for other mobile platforms to follow soon. According Gizmodo, who have reviewed the app, it is a cross between Amazon's Kindle app and Apple's iBooks. Like Amazon's Kindle platform, B&N will offer syncing across devices.
This openness, pioneered by Amazon, will surely sound the death knell for dedicated devices such as Sony's series of eReaders which offer little prospect of book portability. Why spend a fortune on a library that then ties you in to one hardware manufacturer?
It is also bad news for Apple and the iBookStore. Unless Apple can introduce iBooks to other platforms – including Android, BlackBerry and future non-Apple tablets – they will lose the initiative. At the moment I cannot see the iBookStore replicating the success of the AppStore unless Apple dive in to compete directly with Amazon and, now, B&N.
After a taste of Whispersync, nobody wants to be restricted to one platform. On a day to day basis, it is convenient to switch repeatedly between iPad, iPhone and (if you have one) the Kindle. Who wants to buy something that can be read only on the iPad so you have to carry it around with you all the time? And on a long-term basis, buyers want portability so they can have the confidence of being able to access their library on any future device they purchase.