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Amazon nemesis Barnes & Noble is on the verge of challenging the Kindle with its very own ebook reader based on Google's open source Android operating system.

According to a source speaking with The Wall Street Journal, B&N could begin selling an ereader as early as next month in the US, and gadget-obsessed blog Gizmodo pegs the mystery machine as an Android device.

Apparently, the device will include a six-inch touchscreen from digital-paper maker E-Ink Corp., and this will offer up an iPhone-like virtual keyboard - something you won't find on the Kindle.

The Journal also says that in the Kindle-like fashion, the B&N reader will include a wireless connection for downloading titles. Barnes & Noble unveiled its own online ebook store this summer.

The company has already announced partnerships that will see this online store hook into ebook readers from Plastic Logic and Irex. At the moment, the store is serving up texts for a software app that runs the Apple iPhone, the iPod Touch, and the RIM BlackBerry as well as full-fledged Windows and Mac desktops and laptops.

After a filing made on behalf of Barnes & Noble by a Taiwanese outfit, the American bookseller has received approval from the FCC for an ebook reader.

This marks Barnes & Noble's second foray into the ebook. It had a go in the pre-Kindle says - but failed miserably. No word on the price of the company's mystery Android device. Amazon recently cut the price of the Kindle to $259 in the US, while Sony offers a competing device for $199.

This week, Amazon confirmed that the Kindle will be available outside the US next year. ®

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