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Booksellers involve superheroes in e-book battle

Amazon's deal with DC Comics for the exclusive digital rights to a hundred popular graphic novels--and Barnes & Noble's response--sparks fans' ire.

Green Lantern is part of DC Comics' exclusive content deal with Amazon.

Holy e-comic clash, Batman!

Amazon, apparently in an effort to add muscle to its recently unmasked Kindle Fire tablet, sparked a real-world fight over superhero comic books when it inked a deal with DC Comics for the exclusive digital rights to a hundred popular graphic novels, including Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, the Sandman, and Watchmen.

That arrangement apparently did not sit too well with rival bookseller Barnes & Noble, which has an e-book reader it would like to see flourish. In response to DC's deal, Barnes & Noble removed the physical copies of the titles from its store shelves, saying that it would not sell books it did not also have digital rights to. Books-a-Million, another large bookseller, took the same action for the same reason.

Comic book fans paint all the players in this tale as villains: They accuse Amazon of turning its back on the graphic novel community, label DC Comics as greedy, and characterize Barnes & Noble as similarly uncaring and childish.

One commenter on the discussion boards needled DC Comics for excluding Apple's tablet with its Amazon deal:

Oh Woe is me? What will me and my poor iPad do? I'm so sorry DC! Because it is not like I can download all those comics for free, oh wait yes I can, and now I guess I will and maybe I will download every comic DC produces while I am at it! Nice move Dc...

DC urges patience, saying the comics will eventually be available for reading on other e-readers via Amazon's Kindle app but won't say when.

As readers increasingly turn to digital devices for their leisure reading, keeping the attention of young consumers will be a key battle.

"It looks like content providers and online purveyors have a few more rounds to go before the Wild West is tamed," Lorraine Shanley, a publishing consultant, told the New York Times.