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LAS VEGAS — Amazon, the company that defined the world of online commerce, is venturing further into the world of physical retail — experimenting with standalone, automated “Kindle Kiosk” vending machines in selected airports and shopping malls.

The machines sell everything from the $379 Kindle Fire HDX to a $20 Kindle PowerFast adapter, in addition to Kindle e-readers and covers.

DSC05974Amazon’s stealthy experiment started rolling out in November, according to an Amazon customer service representative. We spotted one last night at the McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas — doing a double-take when we walked by. One airport worker said it was installed within the past day. That means it’s in place just in time for people traveling through the airport on the way home from CES.

We used it to purchase a Kindle power adapter. Ours was the machine’s second transaction, according to the numbering on our receipt.

The kiosk that we encountered appears to be identical to the ones that were included in temporary Amazon “pop-up stores” at a few U.S. shopping malls during the holidays, as reported by the Wall Street Journal in November. However, the company told the Digital Reader blog at the time that the stores weren’t really stores, but part of a Kindle’s ‘Read-It-To-Believe-It’ marketing campaign designed to promote the Kindle Paperwhite e-reader.

An Amazon spokesperson tells us via email that the company has made the kiosks available at a variety of locations, including events, malls and airports. “We’re very happy with the customer response so far, and are excited to give customers (like you!) another easy way to purchase accessories and also Kindle e-readers and Kindle Fire tablets,” the spokesperson said.

The experiment signals the company’s desire to expand beyond online sales and third-party retail stores, directly selling its hardware and accessories in physical locations. It’s also notable in the context of past predictions that Amazon might want to buy Coinstar and Redbox parent Outerwall, the automated vending machine company based in Bellevue. That was pure speculation, but such a move would significantly increase Amazon’s physical footprint.

[RelatedAmazon sets up booth in front of college bookstore to tout Amazon Student program]

DSC05954Tech companies such as Apple and Microsoft have ventured into physical retail with splashy stores, but it’s no surprise that Amazon — with its low margins and love for automation — would instead try a vending machine. It’s not clear how many people will feel comfortable purchasing something as expensive as a $379 tablet from a vending machine. But at $69, the standard Kindle e-reader could be an impulse buy for someone preparing for a long flight.

Amazon’s kiosk is powered by Zoom Systems, which makes similar automated retail machines for Best Buy and other big brands.

Our experience with the Kindle Kiosk at the Las Vegas airport wasn’t entirely smooth. At different times during the process of buying the Kindle power adapter, interface was unresponsive for 10 seconds or more. We were able to work through the sluggishness, and after completing the purchase with our credit card, the adapter slid neatly into the bin at the bottom of the machine. The on-screen dialog explained how the item could be returned using the company’s online system.

However, the kiosk didn’t allow us to link the purchase to an existing Amazon account, which would seem to be an obvious feature for Amazon to add in the future.

Here’s a collection of photos showing the kiosk and purchase process. Click any image to open a gallery.

 

Comments

  • http://blog.findwell.com Kevin Lisota

    At the Vegas airport, they should simply tie this to the slot machines for payment. Hit a jackpot on the airport slots and get a Kindle!

  • craigkeefner

    Thanks for shooting it. Nice job! I wonder how you knew it was Zoom Systems? Did you look at the back of the machine?

    • http://geekwire.com Todd Bishop

      Hi Craig, thanks! Zoom was referenced on a couple of the support pages … here’s a pic of one.

  • http://StartedinSeattle.com/ Stephen Medawar

    There are Apple vending machines in Macy’s. I’m sure they are 3rd party, but I was surprised to see someone buying an iPad from it last time I was there.

    • Tuxbox

      Those are ZoomSystem machines as well.

  • l.cranston

    “the kiosk didn’t allow us to link the purchase to an existing Amazon account”, that *is* a feature, for some folks. Now if I could buy a book using bitcoin, I would have some degree of privacy in what I read. (use a starbucks wifi so it isn’t tied to my home IP) The whole idea of anyone having a list of what I read is so creepy it delayed my purchase of a paperwhite (rooted, of course, and firewalled from Amazon). Now if they would drop DRM, I’d fly out to Vegas to buy one of these – with cash.

    • Elizabeth Jane

      Lol seems you must be reading something quite controversial? ;) I could care less if anyone saw my book list.

      • l.cranston

        the nothing-to-hide argument stems from a faulty “premise that
        privacy is about hiding a wrong.” Surveillance, for example, can inhibit such lawful activities as free speech, free association, and other First Amendment rights essential for democracy.

  • Zachary Reiss-Davis

    Smart for airports; I would certainly consider buying a cheap Kindle if I forgot mine before a long flight.

  • Chattopax

    Actually be great if they had preloaded kindles or a system whereby you can buy it and there’s a little package you know your 10 movies a bunch of songs whatever and little interface we can arrange it you can buy you can pick from the at a bunch of songs from the jukebox. Incentive to buy the devices it pops out of their charged and loaded with the media that you want. Sync with an existing Amazon account and have a clone of your wife’s Kindle with all the books you’ve paid for pop out, option to download other media that you own through partners…. these kind of things might make a Whearry are cranky traveler want to pamper them some… good headphones your 10 favorite movies what else do you want?

  • Nick Davies

    Amazon has the best prices on all of the Kindle models! CHECK IT OUT NOW! http://amzn.to/174bELn

  • Jay

    I was in LAS and couldn’t find it. Can anyone tell me where the kiosk is as I’d like to see it.

  • Wadi diab 8

    Amazon every day come ups with new technologies is the most powerful site to buy anything from the net :)

    wadi diab 8

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