The arrival of the Kindle at AT&T stores represents more progress in the creeping distribution of Amazon’s popular e-reader. Originally, the Kindle was a 3G-only device powered by Sprint. However, the arrival of Wi-Fi-only competition from Barnes & Noble caused Amazon to respond with its own Wi-Fi-bound Kindle. Since then, far fewer consumers have opted to pay the 3G premium for either device, and Barnes & Noble decided to completely forego a cellular version of its Nook Color “reader’s tablet.” In contrast, category pioneer Sony has fallen behind as its entry-level e-reader, the Pocket Edition, lacks Wi-Fi and relies on PC sideloading.
As the network now behind both the Kindle and Nook, AT&T has held up e-readers as an example of successful connected devices. Indeed, it has been rare to find a device that so combines affordability and such light data usage that service can be completely subsidized (although the debutante Mavia introduced at this year’s CES is a promising potential next example). While Amazon continues to pursue tablet clients – the bookseller is a launch partner for the forthcoming HP Touchpad – the diverse functionality of such products tends to make the carrier more of a purchase consideration. In contrast, AT&T’s deals to power e-readers have become long-term exclusives that live below most consumers’ radar.