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Target abandons Amazon, banishes Kindles from stores this month

If you’ve been saving up your Target gift cards with the intent of using the credit to buy yourself an Amazon Kindle, you might want to act quickly: The uber-giant retailer has already removed the e-reader and tablet hardware from its online stores, and final shipments to physical stores will go out mid-month. But why?

The Verge was the first to hear about the removal of the Kindle from Target outlets, with an anonymous source giving “conflict of interest” as the reason why. After initially reporting the story as rumor, the site was contacted by Target to confirm the story with the following statement:

Target continually evaluates its product assortment to deliver the best quality and prices for our guests. Target is phasing out Kindles and Amazon- and Kindle-branded products in the spring of 2012. We will continue to offer our guests a full assortment of ereaders and supporting accessories including the Nook.

The phase out is in full swing, with Target’s online store no longer offering the devices, and the site’s Kindle brand store now entirely empty. According to the Verge’s original report, final shipments of the devices to Target locations throughout the US are expected to go out May 13, meaning that it’s likely that no Target store will be offering Kindle hardware as early as the end of this month.

But what is the mysterious conflict of interest that seems to be behind Target’s sudden re-evaluation of the decision to carry the Amazon product? Popular scuttlebutt this afternoon suggests that the partnership between the retailer and Apple to open mini-Apple stores in 25 Targets across the country may have something to do with it, but it’s not unbelievable that Amazon’s own increasing shift towards digital products may have led to the company making what Target may have considered unreasonable demands of the retailer. Rather than wonder about the why, it may be more productive for Amazon and industry watchers to start wondering whether Target’s withdrawal from selling Kindles will impact the device’s dominance in the non-PC tablet marketplace.