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WHSmith plugs in free Wi-Fi to flog new Kobo ebook readers

WHSmith says 603 of its stores will soon be offering free Wi-Fi -- a ruse to sell its latest line of Kobo ebook readers, perhaps?

WHSmith will soon offer customers access to free Wi-Fi in-store, with its latest line of Kobo ebook readers hooked up for a try-before-you-buy experience.

603 WHSmith shops will come under The Cloud, the free Wi-Fi service owned by Sky that's already in chains such as Pizza Express, Greggs, Wagamama and some railway stations. It's expected to roll out very soon.

The service will allow customers to browse the Internet on their tablet or smart phone. Shoppers will be directed straight to the WHSmith website after login, to be hit by a wave of product offers and reviews.

The high-street newsagent will be hoping the addition of free Wi-Fi will help boost the sales of its Kobo products. These currently include a plain ebook reader with built-in Wi-Fi, the Kobo Wireless, which will set you back £60, a touchscreen version for £80 and a  tablet, the Kobo Vox, for £150 -- a price to rival the Kindle Fire and Google Nexus 7.

WHSmith will be adding a 5-inch touch version for £60, from 1 October, alongside the Kobo Glo eReader for £100 -- an E-Ink reader you can view in sunlight or darkness thanks to an 'adjustable glo' feature.

Customers will be able to try out all of the models connected to the Internet -- so you can test all that E-Ink goodness for yourself while browsing the 2.2 million-strong ebook collection WHSmith has to offer.

There's no word on when the new Kobo Arc tablet will be reaching stores, but it's sure to fare better than the Kobo Vox -- a tablet doomed by its severely outdated Android 2.3 Gingerbread OS, very slow performance, and a frustratingly unresponsive screen. Really we would recommend looking at Google or Amazon's offerings, at least until the Arc touches down -- or possibly wait for the fabled iPad mini?

Let's just hope the new Kobo ebook readers will fare better than the Vox -- the light-up screen does sound like a useful feature, and one Amazon currently offers on a US-only version of their Kindle.

What do you think of of WHSmith offering free Wi-Fi? Will it make you more inclined to buy a Kobo? Or is it just another place to mill around zapping up free Internet goodness? Let us know in the comments or over on Facebook.