Bookseller Barnes & Noble has launched an iPhone and iPod Touch application that will let users search for book, CD and DVD titles by simply snapping a picture of the cover.
Users who download the free B&N Bookstore App at the iTunes App Store can use their mobile cameras to search the company’s multi-million book inventory and return information on the product, including pricing, editorial reviews and customer ratings. They can also purchase the books they find over the mobile phone for home delivery, or reserve them for in-store pickup at the closest brick and mortar outlet in the chain.
Users will need to have an existing registration with the Barnes & Noble Web site to buy books over their iPhone, but they can use the reserve function as a guest without a Web account.
To promote app downloads, signs in many Barnes & Noble units encourage visitors to show the home screens of their iPhone and iPod devices to the baristas at the in-store Starbucks outlets to receive a free coffee drink. At press time, the app was ranked first among free apps in the Books category on the iTunes App Store, with 43 reviews since its June 24 release and 757 ratings for an aggregate score of 3.5 stars (out of 5.)
Barnes & Noble partnered with LinkMe Mobile and Spotlight Mobile to develop the new app, which will also let users find store locations with maps and even locate the ones with Starbuck’s Cafes and Wi-Fi access. Customers can also find out about book signings, readings and other events at those stores, see original video interviews with authors and get recommendations for other titles based on their searches.
“We designed the B&N BookStore App based on the tremendous growth we’ve seen over the past 12 months in our mobile traffic and customer adoption,” Barnes & Noble.com president William Lynch said in a release. “With the Barnes & Noble app, iPhone and iPod Touch users can interact with America’s number one bookstore anywhere and anytime, providing them access to exclusive content and customer reviews as well as information about the more than 50,000 events in our stores.”
The new iPhone app brings Barnes & Noble, which bills itself as the “world’s largest bookstore,” into head-to-head competition with Amazon.com, which has had an iPhone m-commerce app for months. Nor is Barnes & Noble the only bookseller to use phone cameras; SnapTell offers iPhone users the chance to download an app, send a photo of the book cover and get back product information.