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Barnes & Noble Launches Free Wi-Fi

Barnes & Noble hopes to sell more e-books to compete with Amazon.com's Kindle.
Barnes & Noble on Tuesday launched free Wi-Fi at its bookstores, providing customers with a convenient way to buy and download electronic books.

The free wireless hotspots will be provided through AT&T, which has managed Barnes & Noble's paid Wi-Fi network since 2005. The bookseller operates 777 stores in 50 states and offers more than 700,000 e-book titles.

As part of the Wi-Fi offering, Barnes & Noble customers can opt-in to receive coupons to the in-store cafe, notices on author book signings and other messages when the customer logs in to the Wi-Fi service.

Barnes & Noble is boosting its e-book business to counter the success rival Amazon has had with its Kindle e-reader. The device, which provides a free wireless connection to buy and download e-books from Amazon, accounts for 35% of book sales for those editions in which Kindle versions are available. Amazon won't say how many Kindles it has sold.

In competing with Amazon, Barnes & Noble just about matched Amazon's e-book pricing of about $10 a title. Earlier this year, Barnes & Noble bought Fictionwise, the owner or eReader.com. The site is one of the most popular e-book stores on the Web.

Amazon is credited with jumpstarting the e-book market with the Kindle. Publishers have joined booksellers in promoting e-books, which are the fastest-growing category in the book industry. Nevertheless, e-book sales today are small compared to print sales, totaling $100 million last year, according to some estimates.

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