Barnes & Noble has jointly announced with AT&T to do away with subscription fees and offer free Wi-Fi Internet connectivity in all of its stores, nationwide, without requiring a purchase.
That decision goes hand-in-hand with the retailer's new eBookstore, which piggybacks on B&N's previous announcement that it was working with Plastic Logic to develop an e-book reader to compete with Amazon's Kindle.
With free Wi-Fi access in all of its stores -- and soon, a place to sell them besides the web -- Barnes & Noble may be very well showing off the benefits of having a network of brick-and-mortars stores with a familiar name attached to them: increased customer awareness, a second way to acquire an e-reader, and the ability to try before you buy -- something Amazon has yet to address.
(In a sidenote, it even appears that Barnes & Noble is outdoing Starbucks itself as a place to sit, drink coffee and read a book. But I digress.)
The Barnes & Noble eBookstore launched with 700,000 titles, instantly dwarfing Amazon.com's Kindle inventory, measured at 300,000 volumes — but the B&N figure includes 500,000 e-books which are free public-domain offerings from Google.
Naturally, both companies have iPhone/iPod touch e-reader applications to sell e-books to a market that doesn't need a secondary device.