Looking to buy a Kindle Touch this holiday season? Well, Amazon.com won't be the only place the new device will be available.
Starting next week, AT&T said it will sell the 3G version of the Kindle Touch e-reader, one of three new e-readers recently announced by Amazon. The Kindle Touch offers a new touch screen. AT&T will charge $149 for the device, the same price as Amazon.com.
This is the first time AT&T will be selling the Kindle e-reader in its retail stores. And it will give people an opportunity to play around with the device before they buy it. This in-store retail experience is something that fans of the Kindle's rival, the Barnes & Noble Nook, say they like.
AT&T provides the 3G cellular service that comes bundled with the 3G versions of all new Kindle e-readers. It allows Kindle Touch 3G owners to download books and periodicals anywhere AT&T's 3G cell signal is available. Amazon says that entire books download within 60 seconds over the AT&T 3G network. AT&T also offers Kindle 3G customers the ability to access AT&T Wi-Fi hot spots in some public locations for free.
The cost of the 3G access for all 3G-enabled Kindles is bundled into the purchase price of the Kindle. This means that Kindle 3G users do not have to subscribe to a data service.
Amazon also offers the Kindle Keyboard with 3G service, but the device is not sold at AT&T retail locations.
Amazon also sells Kindle e-readers without 3G service. These devices cost about $50 less than the 3G versions and they allow users to download books and other content only through Wi-Fi networks. And since they're not 3G-enabled, they will not be sold through AT&T stores.
AT&T, which is the second largest wireless service provider in the U.S., has been making a big push over the past couple of years to expand its service offerings beyond cell phones to other connected devices. The e-reader market, through deals such as the one with Amazon, has helped expand the carrier's market. While customers don't sign up for a separate AT&T service, AT&T is paid by Amazon every time a Kindle with 3G is sold. And this is what pays for the service.
Because the browsing and download functionality is strictly limited on the Kindle e-readers to low-data consumption activities, AT&T doesn't run the risk of e-reader customers overwhelming its already crowded 3G wireless service.
This is not the case with tablet computers, such as Apple's iPad, which also uses AT&T's 3G network. AT&T offers separate data packages for customers who buy a 3G-enabled iPad. The plans cost $15 for 250MB of data per month or $25 for 2GB of data per month. AT&T requires new 3G-enabled iPad customers to sign up for one of these services for the first 30 days, but after that, customers can cancel the service with no penalty.
One important thing for consumers to remember is that the new Amazon Kindle Touch should not be confused with the Kindle Fire, Amazon's new 7-inch tablet. The Kindle Fire is also good for reading online books, but it does much more and has a full browser as well as supports apps for viewing streaming video. This device, and not the Kindle Touch, more closely competes with the iPad 2. Currently, the Kindle Fire does not support 3G service. It is available only as a Wi-Fi device.