Is Barnes & Noble Gearing Up to Completely Kill eReader and Fictionwise?

If you have a big eReader or Fictionwise library, I strongly encourage you to do two things. One, download any books in your library and archive them on a hard drive or SD card, and two, download and store the appropriate software to read them on your smartphone or computer. Here’s the eReader download page if you need to track down their reading software.

So why am I sounding the alarm? According to Teleread, the new NOOK Simple Touch Reader does not support PDB, the eBook file format used by eReader and Fictionwise. But both of those stores are owned by B&N, and in fact support for that format was a big selling point of the original NOOK. Not long after the NOOK was released, B&N began switching their eBooks over to ePUB, a different file format, but they continued to support PDBs … until now.

(eReader homepage)

That’s a big enough blow for eReader and Fictionwise, but here’s the worst part: PDB is the only format offered by eReader, and the primary “secure” format offered by Fictionwise (though they do offer multiple formats in some titles). As far as I can tell from testing my own library, they haven’t switched to ePUB. Combine that with the relative flatness of their sites [see images above/below] versus B&N’s own NOOKbooks site, the fact that eReader/Fictionwise stopped offering PDB compatible eReader hardware, and the poor support for their smartphone apps…it’s looking like it might be lights out for them, which is a sad ending for pioneers in the eBook world.

(Fictionwise homepage)

All this is worse news for eReader, since they depend 100% on PDB, but it hasn’t been easy sailing for Fictionwise either. Their flagship membership program and rewards offerings were torpedoed by the agency model and bans on discounting, and they lost many eMagazine contracts as well. Granted, they could still tenaciously cling to a market segment of genre science fiction and romance, but something tells me parent company B&N would rather have loyal genre buyers flocking to the NOOK brand instead.

Now, I’m not encouraging piracy and copyright violations, but I will say this…with some judicious searching, you can probably locate instructions on how to “liberate” a PDB from its digital rights management, which would leave it free to be converted to ePUB for use on a NOOK Simple Touch Reader if you so desired (or a Kobo Touch, etc). Conversion of a non-protected book is easy with software from Calibre, and if you have a large PDB library it might be worth the time and effort to keep the books current and readable.

(B&N homepage-see the difference in style and design?)

If you have books you downloaded through B&N before the conversion to ePUB, don’t worry-if you redownload them you will receive them as an ePUB this time around. The only exception is that B&N is having issues with their Mac reader software. For some reason, if you download through B&N’s website on a Mac, they’re still sending the PDB. You need to change your user agent to Windows OR just download through a NOOK device or on a smartphone instead of through your Mac’s web browser.

This is disappointing, but not surprising. B&N hasn’t put much (or any) effort into developing eReader and Fictionwise since the NOOK appeared, and it’s a loose end that’s been maintained for legacy users. It’s clear that with the new NOOK, B&N has decided this is a good time to make a clean break, and from there I really doubt we’ll see eReader and Fictionwise survive the year. They just aren’t as relevant anymore, though it’s important to remember that if you follow eReader backwards you reach Peanut Press, one of the first eBook companies going back to the Palm OS days. Wikipedia has a brief history of both companies, though the information seems to stop in 2009, much like any development and support from B&N!

Are you still buying from Fictionwise or eReader? Will the lack of PDB support matter to you, or is this a blip on the eBook radar? Share your experiences and thoughts below!

Via Teleread

Categories: eBooks, Editorials

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3 replies

  1. The link to fictionwise in the first sentence is invalid.

  2. ISILO ( is a valuable and versatile and affordable PDB reader.  Available for just about any device.