Borders jumps into e-bookstore game

Borders Group launched an e-book store Wednesday with 1.5 million titles, coming somewhat late to the game but committed to grabbing a 17 percent market share in a year.

The company will compete most directly with Barnes & Noble, which already runs an e-book store and sells e-books over several devices, including its own Nook .

Borders and Barnes & Noble also come from the traditional brick-and-mortar bookstore world. Borders runs more than 670 stores in the U.S. and Barnes & Noble has 720 stores and manages another 637 college bookstores.

Amazon.com is the major e-book competitor for both Borders and Barnes & Noble, and already, the three are waging a pitched battle for the lowest-priced e-reader device with a 6-inch screen. Amazon’s Kindle is selling at $189 with 3G wireless connectivity, while the Barnes & Noble Nook, with 3G and Wi-Fi, sells for $199 , with a Wi-Fi only version priced at $149.

Borders recently introduced the Kobo e-reader for $149.99 with a 6-inch screen. The device uses Bluetooth wireless to connect to a smartphone or uses a USB port to connect to another device such as a desktop computer.

Borders CEO Mike Edwards contended that the race to be the best retail bookseller with e-books is “just starting,” a clear reference to Barnes & Noble, which entered the game last year and launched the Nook before Christmas. “During the past several months, we’ve been carefully crafting a digital strategy. … We believe we are well-positioned to come out strong and to ultimately claim about a 17 percent e-book market share by this time next year.”

Borders boasts some of the same attributes as Barnes & Noble, including providing customers the ability to buy e-books from a range of devices. In addition to the Kobo e-reader, Borders recently began selling the Aluratek Libre eBook Reader Pro for $119 as well as a Borders iPhone and iPad app. Wednesday, Borders said it will also support BlackBerry and Android e-readers.

The Borders’ e-reader software is provided by Kobo of Toronto, which in turn is backed by Indigo Books Music, Borders Group, RedGroup Retail and Cheung Kong Holdings.

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