Starting Sunday, for the first time since Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) launched the Kindle, prospective buyers will be able to try one out in a store instead of hoping for a hands-on moment courtesy of someone who already owns one. They also will get to experience instant gratification instead of waiting for delivery. That is, if they happen to be near Target’s flagship store in downtown Minneapolis or one of its 102 South Florida locations where Target will sell the e-reader. Wider access is expected later this year but the scope and timing aren’t clear. No discount and, it appears, no large-format Kindle DX, just the paperback-size version for the list price of $259.
Until now, Amazon has sold the various models of its e-reader only through its own site, eschewing the retail option while competitor Sony (NYSE: SNE) went the in-store route (it has been in Target since 2008) and as Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS) launched the Nook through its own stores. That’s not enough in today’s competitive e-reader world where every other major option already shipping can be found in stores and the more-glamorous iPad can be fondled at Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) stores and many Best Buys.
This past Sunday, B&N’s Nook went on sale through BestBuy.com and was supposed to be in stores. (When I checked Sunday afternoon, my local Best Buy had yet to receive a shipment and there was no sign of a promised display area for the device.) Meanwhile, B&N plans to sell other e-readers in its own stores. As the owner of a major e-bookstore, the company gains any time buyers pick up a device linked to its virtual bookshelves.