updated 4/4/2006 8:14:12 PM ET 2006-04-05T00:14:12

Barnes & Noble Inc., the nation's largest bookstore chain, is spurning the Sony Reader, a new electronic device cited as a potential turning point for the tiny e-book market.

"We have sold e-readers before and they haven't done particularly well," Barnes & Noble spokeswoman Mary Ellen Keating said Tuesday in response to a query from The Associated Press.

Amazon.com Inc., the leading online book seller, also has no plans to sell the device, according to its manufacturer, Sony Electronics Inc. Amazon did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

On Monday, Sony announced that Barnes & Noble's rival chain, Borders Group Inc., would be selling the e-reader at about 200 stores around the country, starting this summer.

"Borders is committed to helping our customers enrich their lives through knowledge and entertainment," Bill Nasshan, Borders' senior vice president of trade books, said in a statement. "We are adding an exciting, new book format that gives those who are passionate about reading another way to indulge that passion."

Ron Hawkins, senior vice president of Personal Reader Systems marketing at Sony Electronics, Inc., would not comment Tuesday on any discussions with Barnes & Noble or Amazon, but said Sony was impressed with Border's enthusiasm.

"Borders is the outlet where discussions really jelled into something material," Hawkins said. "This is something that has to be sold. You can't just hang it on a peg and expect it to sell itself. We're working with retailers who will put that extra effort into promoting the product."

Besides Borders, Sony will be selling the Reader at 30 Sony Style stores nationwide and on its Web site. According to Sony, the Reader will cost from $299 to $399.

Most e-books now are read on personal digital assistants, or PDAs, with prices ranging from under $100 to more than $400.

Ever since they emerged in the late 1990s, when they were widely labeled as the future of publishing, e-books have suffered because there was no popular device to read them on. Previous readers have been criticized for being difficult to look at and for lacking the intimacy of a bound paper text.

According to the International Digital Publishing Forum, U.S. sales for e-books were between $12 million and $15 million in 2005, a fraction of the multibillion dollar publishing industry.

With its soft cover, high resolution and ability to last for hours on a single charge, the Sony Reader has been praised by e-book advocates as a breakthrough. The Reader was highly publicized at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this year.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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