Barnes & Noble stepped up its efforts to compete with Amazon and the Kindle, announcing plans to partner with Netherlands-based IREX Technologies to offer a new wireless-enabled digital reading device with access to the 700,000 e-book titles available through the newly launched B&N eBookstore. A spinoff company from Phillips Electronics, IREX has offered a variety of digitial reading devices to the professional European market since 2001.

IREX plans to release a new digital reader targeting the American market that will have an 8.1” screen, stylus-touchscreen and 3G (phone network) wireless connectivity. The new consumer-focused device will be unveiled later this year and will apparently support the ePub format standard for e-books that has been adopted by the B&N eBookstore.

No price or wireless carrier for the device was announced. IREX typically offers a series of 4 digital reading devices including the iLiad Book with an 8.1” screen, 16-tone grayscale, stylus navigation and Wi-Fi wireless access for $699. IREX also offers higher priced devices with larger screen sizes primarily targeting professional readers. B&N will add the new consumer IREX device to the forthcoming Plastic Logic e-reading device slated to be debut next year.

Kevin Hamilton, North American CEO of IREX Technologies, said the new pact will, “change the dynamics of the consumer market—users want to easily purchase content from a variety of sources and we allow them to read it on IREX e-reader as well as other devices.”

“By making the B&N eBookstore available on the IREX device, we’re providing our readers with another innovative new vehicle that offers simple and convenient access to their favorite subjects, authors and material,” said William J. Lynch, president, Barnes &