Amazon’s New Physical Retail Foray: Kindle Cards

EReaders don’t yet have a single dominant device like iPods were to MP3 players, but Amazon’s Kindle line might be the closest thing. Now, Amazon is trying to give its eReader of choice a leg-up in an unfamiliar market: brick-and-mortar stores.

Never one to test the borders of online and offline commerce, Amazon has begun running pop-up kiosks for Kindle eBooks in convenience stores around the Seattle area, GeekWire reported. The kiosks contain gift cards for both individual Kindle titles and three- and six-month subscriptions to Amazon’s new Kindle Unlimited program that offers members access to Amazon’s entire digital library with no restrictions for the duration of the subscription.

While GeekWire confirmed that the Kindle gift cards work as advertised, the funds also work seamlessly across Amazon’s platforms if consumers change their minds — after canceling a $29.99 Kindle Unlimited subscription, the GeekWire source was able to transfer that amount over to a gift card for use on individual titles.

The Kindle kiosks are at 61 stores around the Seattle area, though the eCommerce giant released no official statement on the program or whether it might be expanded in the future. An unnamed Amazon official told The Digital Reader that the kiosks had been up and running in Seattle-area drugstores since Oct. 2015, though it would appear that they haven’t received much media exposure until now. The official also explained that the distinct titles are culled from a rotating list of bestselling eBooks on its main Kindle site.

The kiosks represented a concerted effort by Amazon to build more of a physical footprint for its brand over the last several months. While its physical bookstore experiment might have raised more eyebrows than it did sales, a stripped-down version that offers gift cards for Kindle books instead might fit in better with customers’ ideas of what Amazon should be.