Barnes & Noble is on a roll with digital media announcements. The latest: AT&T (NYSE: T) will provide unlimited, free WiFi access the chain’s 777 stores across the U.S. And, according to a spokeswoman for AT&T, they’ll be able to skip the annoying (my word, not hers) registration/log-in process required now for free access at Starbucks. AT&T started providing wireless access through Barnes & Noble in 2005; until now, it was accessible only to subscribers for various AT&T services. More details in the release.
The move ties in with last week’s launch of the BN.com e-book store with 200,000-plus titles for sale and another half-million available free through Google (NSDQ: GOOG) Books; users can download the free books with the revamped B&N eReader. At the same time, B&N announced that it would be it also announced an exclusive deal with Plastic Logic as the eBookstore for its upcoming device. AT&T, too, has a deal with Plastic Logic as its data provider on 3G and across AT&T’s WiFi network.
Earlier this month, B&N also launched an app for the iPhone and iTouch that included a coupon for a free drink at in-store cafes. The AT&T agreement opens the way for coupons and other info to be delivered by WiFi when users enter a store. The push service service will be opt-in only.
— AT&T WiFi stats: Meanwhile, Glenn Fleishman has picked up some stats from AT&T on WiFi use, which is on its way to more than doubling this year: 15 million connections during Q209 alone and a total of 26 million for the first six months of 2009, compared with 20 million connections in 2008. The way the iPhones connect to WiFi automatically accounts for some of those connections. Smartphone WiFi use was up 41 percent, making up just under half of the Q2 connections.