With sales of self-published e-books published through PubIt! badly trailing those of Kindle and iBooks editions, Barnes & Noble is counting on its revamped and rebranded e-book publishing platform, Nook Press, to build a critical mass of authors that allows the company to more effectively compete with Amazon and Apple.

Theresa Horner, v-p of digital content at Nook, believes that making it easier for writers to self-publish at Nook Press will dramatically increase the number of Nook titles, giving readers more variety and boosting sales. In addition, with a growing author base, more and more writers will drive traffic to Nook sites to buy e-books, Horner told PW.

International expansion should also boost sales, Horner said, noting that Nook’s late 2012 expansion into the U.K. is only the first of several territories under consideration for future growth. She also underscored that readers do not need to own a Nook device to enjoy Nook Press e-Books, since free apps for portable Apple and Android tablets and smartphones are also available, as well as free software for Nook e-Book reading on larger Macs and PCs.

So, how does Nook Press stack up against PubIt! Kindle and other DIY e-books? PW took a test drive recently, using the new Nook Press and found that the platform should help B&N compete more effectively with Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing and Apple’s iBookstore, as well as “aggregators” (such as Bookbaby.com, Booktango.com, SmartiBooks.com and the popular Smashwords.com) that port content tomultiple booksellers.

However, the 65% base royalty remains unchanged, compared with 70% paid by Amazon for Kindle books sold in the US-UK-EU; neither has B&N yet expanded its e-book outlets beyond the U.S. and U.K., in contrast to Apple’s iBookstore, active in more than 50 nations, or Amazon’s outlets in 14 countries. Also unchanged is the pricing structure, which, as with Amazon and Apple, heavily favors books priced from $2.99 to $9.99. Authors should note that with all three booksellers, they actually earn less for books priced $10 to $20 than for those priced at $9. while their readers pay more.

Although its base royalty is lower than Kindle’s for US-UK-EU books priced $2.99-$9.99, Nook Press does not deduct “delivery fees” (charges for larger file downloads) of any kind. For heavily formatted e-books, or full color picture books with massive high-resolution image files, the savings in delivery charges can outweigh the lower royalty. To its credit, Nook Press will preserve PubIt’s policy of allowing authors to publish on a non-exclusive basis, without attempts to penalize those who publish elsewhere — an area where both Amazon and Apple have faced widespread criticism for attempts to lock in unwary writers to unfavorable exclusive terms.

A related feature allows authors to automatically convert their manuscripts from Word to e-book standard EPUB format for publication by Nook Press, then download an unencrypted EPUB file that will typically run effectively on other devices. This makes Nook Press a useful option for gestating books that the author can later sell at a variety of outlets.

A new “Invite Collaborators” feature for fledgling books allows authors to permit early readers of their choice to privately preview and comment on preliminary drafts before books are finalized and made available for sale publicly. Like the ability to download an unencrypted EPUB file, this tool will help writers develop new material with Nook Press that can later be sold through additional booksellers.

Another addition is a live chat feature, which offers writers instant support and personalized answers to questions at every stage of the publishing process. Live chat could fix one of the greatest weaknesses of the old PubIt platform, notorious for slow responses to inquiries, often by anonymous form letters.