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B&N shuts down the pioneering Fictionwise digital bookstores

Laura Hazard Owen

When Fictionwise launched in 2000, it was a pioneer in a Kindle-less, Nook-less, iPad-less world. The site sold ebooks in a variety of formats like Palm, Rocket and Microsoft Reader. It let users download ebooks to their mobile phones — in 2001. It launched an ebook lending platform for libraries — in 2002. When Fictionwise bought Motricity’s eReader.com in 2008, it seemed as if the company might have a bright future as an independent digital bookstore, and Barnes & Noble acquired it for $15.7 million in 2009 prior to the launch of its own Nook e-reader.

Now Barnes & Noble is shutting down Fictionwise, eReader.com and sister site eBookwise.com. In a letter to publishers and authors (posted in full at Teleread), Fictionwise director of publishing Daniel Jorissen writes, “Over the past few years there has been a significant decrease in demand for many of the ebook formats that Fictionwise.com sells. In contrast, the new industry standard eBook format supported by Barnes & Noble — EPUB — is growing in popularity.”

Jorissen doesn’t mention it here, but another format growing in popularity, of course, is Kindle. (And Amazon still doesn’t support EPUB.)

Fictionwise will shut its sites on December 4, and U.S. and U.K. customers will be able to move their libraries over to Nook. (Here are the directions for doing so.)

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