Tuesday, May 11, 2010

E-Reading Coming to a Store Near You: Right on Target?

A few weeks ago it was announced that Amazon's Kindle, the most popular e-Reader in the marketplace, would officially be sold at select brick and mortar Target stores. This strategy makes sense since Target is a place where we tend to purchase items that fit into our daily lives. Personally, I've always felt the Kindle TV commercials had a whiff of Target's marketing sensibilities, so upcoming ads for Kindle that might say "Also available at Target" shouldn't seem surprising.

People have been hearing a lot about the onslaught of these portable readers, so I would imagine the opportunity for loyal Target customers to take Kindles for a test drive before buying will be very appealing as we head into the summer beach season, especially for those who have been on the e-Reader fence. But selling reading devices in physical stores is nothing new so the question is whether or not the idea of buying one will be even more attractive because of the familiarity of the Amazon brand?    

For a few years now Sony Readers have been available for sale at just about all Borders bookstores, which would seem like a natural setting for such a product, right? Unfortunately, this in-store effort was poorly managed and overall the Sonys just gathered dust on display tables and served no more than as a curiosity for most. So perhaps it's better if digital devices such as e-Readers be sold at stores like Best Buy that focus on electronics or ones like Target, which has a dedicated electronics department since the majority of potential converts will have several questions about how they work, what it's like to use one, and what features do these gadgets include. Speaking in person with a knowledgeable employee could make quite a difference in some people's decision making.  

Barnes & Noble's Nook, the Sony Reader, and others are available at Best Buy and of course the Nook is also sold at B&N store locations. The Que and iRex e-Readers are also supposed to be sold at B&N stores, though the Que's future is questionable at the moment since the release of Apple's iPad

And now comes the Kobo Reader, a very simple, easy to use device (at least that's what all the reviews have generally said so far) that will be sold at all Borders store locations along with other eReaders, such as the Sony devices, which I imagine will remain part of their selection. And Kobo is aggressively priced at $149 so it just might attract some who've been hesitant to spend more. And who can blame them when other electronics like the Nintendo DS does so much more for less! 

So will making all these reading devices available alongside digital cameras and MP3 players significantly increase consumer awareness? Maybe. But what I suspect will really be needed is for the staff of the Best Buys, Targets, Borders, Barnes & Nobles, Etc., to enthusiastically give demos and patiently answer questions so the idea of owning a Sony, Nook, Kobo, or Kindle resonates.

I don't know about you, but based on my personal experiences dealing with these big box stores, I have to say I'm a tad skeptical. But hopeful.

What do you think? Will Kindles in Target be the tipping point?



  1. I wouldn't count on sales staffs at big box retailers to provide much support for e-readers, but their mere presence at more brick and mortar stores can only help the exposure of these devices to wider audiences. With the iPad and the announcement today of Google and Verizon partnership to create a new tablet will only expand the interest in e-reading devices. But all of this of course comes at the expense of less print-sales, so be careful what we wish for.

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