Verizon Wireless sees Kindle-type e-readers coming

Amazon’s Kindle might soon be getting new competitors in the market for electronic-book devices.

Tony Lewis, who heads an initiative within Verizon Wireless to provide access to non-phone devices, said Wednesday that five companies have approached Verizon about wireless connections for e-readers.

“You’re going to see a lot of e-readers out there,” Lewis said. “The interest level is tremendous.”

Lewis wouldn’t say which manufacturers Verizon has been talking to. But he hinted that they are looking at entering parts of the e-book market that the Kindle doesn’t focus on, like college textbooks. Inc. launched the second version of the Kindle a month ago. It uses Sprint Nextel Corp.’s wireless network to provide near-instant access to a store with 100,000 books.

So far, the Kindle’s main competitor has been Sony Corp.’s Reader. It has the same type of screen, meant to imitate the look of paper, but lacks wireless access. Instead, books are loaded by connecting the device to a computer.

“We’d love to have Sony on there,” Lewis said, refusing to confirm if the company had been in touch. He spoke at a cell phone trade show that started Wednesday in Las Vegas.

AT&T Inc., the second largest wireless carrier after Verizon Wireless, has also been talking to e-reader manufacturers, said Ralph de la Vega, the company’s head of consumer services. Since AT&T’s network is more similar to ones used overseas, it could support international e-book readers, he noted. The Kindle can download books only in the U.S.

Just like Verizon Wireless, AT&T is looking for ways to expand the uses of its wireless network beyond cell phones to generate additional revenue.

Verizon Wireless is a joint venture between Verizon Communications Inc. of New York and Vodafone Group PLC of Britain.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.