Barnes & Noble Enters iPad E-Book Race Late With New App; Includes Sharing

Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) iPad users have had no shortage of e-reader apps to choose from but one big name has been noticeably missing: Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS). The bookstore chain has been very high profile for the last year with its two-pronged strategy of hardware — the Nook — and platform — the BN eReader. Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) Kindle and Kobo, now in partnership with brick-and-mortar rival Borders, each had iPad-optimized apps ready for the hot device’s April 3 launch; both are competitors with similar device/platform strategies. Now Barnes & Noble is showing up for the party with its own free app (use that link to download directly to the device until it shows up on the device iTunes store).

The iBooks app from Apple doesn’t come built in but it has been the most popular e-reading app consistently since launch and more often than not, the most downloaded free app overall. (It’s being beat out tonight by WebMD.) The Kindle app is at #12 tonight. On the iPhone, Kindle ranks #1, B&N #2 and Kobo is about 12 slots below.

The new app includes access to BN’s LendMe option to share books with friends via the eReader software on any platform and the Nook. New users get 10 samples of current best sells and three free classics. The B&N app may be the most adjustable of the majors with 10 font sizes, eight fonts and a color wheel to build your own color themes. How does it measure up? I’ll let you know after I spend some time with it.