Best Buy Could Be Holiday Gift for Kindle

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Amazon’s Kindle, once a digital shut-in, is suddenly getting out on the town. Best Buy has announced it will start offering the popular e-reader this fall. And it’s not the only brick-and-mortar retailer where Kindle will make the scene. Target and Staples are selling it too.

Kindle’s coming-out party is quite a change from just a few months ago when Amazon’s e-reader was living a life of online seclusion. While competing devices were readily available for hands-on testing--the Nook at Barnes & Noble, Sony Reader at Borders--Kindle was confined to the virtual world of online retail.

A year ago, I wanted to test a Kindle before buying one. No physical store near me sold the device, and Amazon’s Website suggested I contact Kindle owners in my area—you know, to see if I could drop by to play with the e-reader. For a product seeking mainstream acceptance, the Kindle sure was playing hard to get.

Best Buy Bonanza?

The e-reader market is growing increasingly competitive, particularly with the arrival of Apple’s iPad and similar multiuse tablets, most of which make perfectly good e-readers. The Samsung Galaxy Tab, an Android slate with a 7-inch display, is not much larger than the Kindle but does a lot more--attributes that may make it popular among e-reading devotees.

In the dedicated e-reader market, newer and cheaper devices are arriving all the time, such as Aluratek’s $99 Libre eBook Reader Pro.

Kindle’s arrival at Best Buy will almost certainly boost e-reader sales during the holidays—not only for Amazon, but for its competitors too.

“A strong presence in physical stores will be essential for e-reader vendors this holiday season, because it gives consumers an opportunity to try before they buy,” says IDC analyst Susan Kevorkian. This “helps to make e-readers more competitive against media tablets, which will also be available at retail.”

Strong retail sales could spur enterprise users to take a closer look at e-readers too. Consider the case of the Kindle DX, an oversized reader that’s undergone some university testing, but which has yet to make inroads in higher education. A surge in e-reader use among consumers could spur educational institutions ditch overpriced textbooks for tablets—although there’s no guarantee that e-textbooks wouldn’t be equally overpriced.

Amazon’s e-reader strategy has been a success thus far, but the Kindle needs to get out more. It looks like that’s happening.

Contact Jeff Bertolucci via Twitter (@jbertolucci ) or at .

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