Barnes and Noble, ATandT Partner on In-Store Wi-Fi

Bookseller Barnes & Noble partners with AT&T to provide customers in all U.S. stores with free access to Wi-Fi Internet service and its e-bookstore, which boasts 700,000 titles.

Bookseller Barnes & Noble has announced a partnership with mobile carrier AT&T to provide complimentary Wi-Fi Internet access in B&N's stores across the United States. Customers can also use the in-store Wi-Fi to access B&N's collection of 700,000 titles, which it claims is the world's largest e-bookstore.

All customers shopping in B&N stores can now freely download and preview any of the more than 700,000 e-book titles, with hundreds of thousands of public domain titles available from Google. The company said its number of e-book titles is expanding every day and expects to hit the 1 million mark soon. The existing AT&T Wi-Fi network at B&N has been available to customers since 2005.

"We are pleased to expand our relationship with Barnes & Noble as we work together to enhance and deepen customers' overall experience within the retail stores," said AT&T Business Solutions CEO Ron Spears. "We currently offer the majority of our AT&T customers Wi-Fi access throughout our more than 20,000 U.S. hot spot footprint, including Barnes & Noble, with their qualifying AT&T services. Now, we're excited to be able to offer every Barnes & Noble customer the same great Wi-Fi experience at no extra charge whenever they enter a retail store."

As a part of the Wi-Fi offering announced, B&N said customers will also soon be able to opt-in to receive personalized messages from the company-such as a coupon to the in-store caf??«, notices on an author book signing or details on where to find a new book release in their favorite genre-on Wi-Fi-enabled devices when a customer enters the store.

Customers can also download free Barnes & Noble applications, including an events calendar, directions to and locations of the nearest store, and an iPhone application that allows customers to use the iPhone's camera to snap a photo of a front cover and within seconds promptly retrieve product details, editorial reviews and customer ratings, as well as find and reserve a copy of it in the nearest store.

Steve Riggio, CEO of B&N, said this service is a natural progression of the company's digital strategy to provide customers with more choices in how, when and where they want to read. "Barnes & Noble pioneered the concept of retail stores as community centers," said Riggio. "By providing no-fee Wi-Fi access, we are not only meeting our customers' needs, but extending the sense of community that has always been in our stores."

Just last week the bookseller announced the launch of the e-bookstore. In addition to 700,000 titles so far, the e-bookstore offers more than a half-million public domain books from Google, which can be downloaded for free. First-time users of the eReader will have the opportunity to download free e-books, including staples such as Merriam-Webster's Pocket Dictionary and classics of literature.

The company also recently announced a strategic partnership with Plastic Logic, a spin-off company from Cambridge University's Cavendish Laboratory. Their e-reader, seen as a competitor to Amazon's widely publicized (and criticized) Kindle 2 e-reader, is scheduled to debut in early 2010 after a limited run for select partners later this year. It will reportedly have a thickness of less than 7 millimeters, a form factor of 8.5 by 11 inches and a weight of less than 16 ounces. It will be capable of displaying Microsoft Office documents and PDF files as well as e-books.