Amazon Offensive: Kindle Gets Cheaper, Goes Global, Nabs AT&T

Amazon late Tuesday cut the price of its Kindle e-reader to $259 -- the second Kindle price cut since July -- and introduced a new version of the e-reader supported by international wireless service from AT&T.

That Kindle, priced at $279, will be a specialty "U.S. and international" version of the e-reader and will bring Kindle to more than 100 countries worldwide starting Oct. 19. News that AT&T is involved is also an eyebrow-raiser, as Amazon's U.S. Kindle syncs with Sprint for Whispernet-enabled downloading. AT&T's support for the international Kindle means Sprint's exclusive relationship with Amazon for the Kindle appears to be over.

Both moves are crucial to Amazon's growth of the Kindle, which is now facing heated e-reader competition from rival devices from Sony, Plastic Logic, iRex and others, and a host of other application and multifunction device challengers, too.

The $249 price, Amazon's second price cut after slashing the Kindle's tag from $359 to $299 back in July, still puts Kindle $40 above lower-end e-readers like Sony's PRS-300 but does bring the Kindle closer to where much of its competition is priced as it gears up for the holiday shopping season.

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"Kindle is the most wished for, the most gifted, and the No. 1 best-selling product across the millions of items we sell on Amazon, and we're excited to be able to lower the price," said Jeff Bezos, Amazon's founder and CEO, in a statement. "We're also excited to announce a new addition to the Kindle family—Kindle with global wireless. At home or abroad in over 100 countries, you can think of a book and download it wirelessly in less than 60 seconds."

The international version of the Kindle is perhaps the more significant move, as it brings Amazon to other countries after being exclusively sold in the U.S. since the original Kindle launched in 2007. The move also shifts pressure to specialty e-reader makers like Interrread -- a U.K.-based startup -- that will now have to battle Amazon in its backyard. Some observers have also said rival e-reader makers like Sony have an advantage over Amazon for being more tied to internationally known brands; Amazon now appears willing to change that.

The international Kindle won't have as many titles available -- 200,000, according to Amazon, far fewer than the 350,000-plus the Kindle store offers in the U.S. -- and most of those titles will be in English, according to an interview with Amazon's vice president of Kindle, Steve Kessel, published in The Wall Street Journal Wednesday.

Amazon further stated that Lonely Planet travel guides will now be available through the Kindle store.

For more on the e-reading landscape, check out our comparison of Amazon Kindle with e-readers from Sony and Plastic Logic.