Just when it seems that the tug-of-war between publishers, bookstores and libraries is stalled with each side locked into a position unacceptable to others, a jolt has come to ebook publishing. As reported in the NY Times, Microsoft has agreed to invest millions of dollars in Barnes & Noble's Nook publishing. This sudden influx of money should make B&N a real contender against Amazon's Kindle. The partnership of bookstores and ebooks should be a natural one, although it doesn't exist in the Amazon-Apple world. Many readers (or borrowers in a library) would likely enjoy browsing through the print edition of a book before deciding to choose it to read on their e-reader. The all-online world of Amazon offers enticing pictures of book covers and snippets of reviews by journalists and other readers, but seeing the actual book offers an even stronger incentive to read.
Although this move may complicate librarian's choices in deciding what formats to choose for their ebook collections, any competition in the field is actually an advantage for libraries. Competition between producers of ebooks is likely to encourage all sides to enter into negotiations to make their products available through libraries as well as bookstores. Let's hope this business move will open up choices for all of us.