Amazon Kindle: Bundled Free In UK, And The iPad Effect

Looks like Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) is looking to cast its retail net ever wider in the hunt for new Kindle users: the e-reading device is now being sold in the UK by Carphone Warehouse and Best Buy UK, an extension of a retailing deal the two companies started in the U.S. last September, and is now being offered for free with mobile phone subscriptions. The news comes two weeks after Amazon and AT&T (NYSE: T) announced that the Kindle would also get stocked in AT&T’s retail stores in the U.S.

Amazon’s newest sales outlets in the UK will be selling the Kindle at the same prices as Amazon’s own site, as well as other retailers like John Lewis and PC World: £111 for the WiFi-only model, and £152 for the model that includes 3G connectivity.

Carphone Warehouse will be offering the Kindle with a twist, too: people taking out two-year contracts on selected handsets will be able to get the WiFi Kindle free of charge, with the 3G model costing £15.

The move is an interesting one for Amazon, which is trying to ramp up more users beyond those who would have bought the product directly from its own site.

The company has never released any official sales numbers for the device, but since launching it has had to make room for a lot more e-readers on the market, from the straight e-book/e-reader competitors like the Sony (NYSE: SNE) Reader and the Nook, to tablets that perform a multitude of other functions, with the ability to read books/magazine apps being just one of them.

Carphone’s move to offer the Kindle free with two-year mobile bundles also plays on another Kindle theme we’ve been seeing of late. There has been speculation over how and whether Amazon would use its hefty distribution machine to get the Kindle into more hands at big discounts, potentially even giving it away free to people as a way of getting them to buy other Amazon services.

One observer, John Walkenbach — perhaps channeling Edgar Cayce — has even gone so far as to predict the month when it will go free: November 2011.

In any case, research from Piper Jaffray (via Fortune) on the launch of the iPad suggests that it may not impact the purchase of e-reading devices, the Kindle in particular.

In a poll of those buying the iPad 2 over the first weekend of sales found that 24 percent owned a Kindle, compared to 13 percent of original iPad buyers having a Kindle. And only 6 percent use their iPad 2 as an e-reading device, down from 19 percent of those surveyed during the launch of the first iPad.