Welcome to the age of subsidized Kindles.

British wireless retailer Carphone Warehouse is offering free Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN) Kindles -- the Wi-Fi models that sell for $139 domestically -- to buyers of new cell phones with two-year contracts. The 3G models are available for just a little more.  

It will be a great way for Amazon to grow its e-reader's presence overseas, but it's also likely the shape of things to come.

Wireless carriers don't have a problem knocking hundreds off a new cell-phone purchase, knowing they will more than make that back during the course of at least 24 months of service. Why else do you think there are so many "free" phones on the market?

However, the practice of bundling a free e-reader into the subsidization equation is a genius move for Carphone Warehouse in the United Kingdom if the bean-counter math nods along. If someone's in the market for a new phone, snagging a "free" Kindle is a no-brainer.

It's not the way that I drew it out. I figured that it would be newspaper publishers finding a way to push digital long-term subscribers through free e-readers.

I took a look at New York Times (NYSE: NYT), Amazon's top-selling Kindle-based newspaper. It sets a reader back $19.99 a month. After backing out Amazon's 30% cut and the bandwidth costs, the publisher is netting roughly $13 a month. The math is there to offer a $139 Kindle -- or slightly less if it can get Amazon to lend a pricing hand -- for folks committing to a two-year digital subscription. Even a one-year deal would suffice if New York Times truly felt this would be an incremental out-of-towner that never would have been a subscriber without the Kindle carrot.

Print publishers need to get on board. The Newspaper Association of America revealed yesterday that newspaper ad sales hit a 25-year low in 2010. The one-two punch of declining circulation rates and marketers' shifting their budgets online is pounding the print publishers to a pulp.

Amazon can also be more proactive. It can't rest on the laurels of the Carphone Warehouse deal, assuming that future bundles elsewhere will involve Kindles. The popularity of Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG) free Android operating system is a lucrative boost for carriers that can now sell pricy data plans on top of cheap smartphones. If they have $100-ish to spare for a gimmicky add-on, the $139 Wi-Fi Kindle can just as easily be a $129 Sony (NYSE: SNE) PSP or a $149 Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS) Nook.

If Amazon and leading digital publishers don't have the vision to pair up quickly, leave it to rival visionaries to beat them to the subsidized punch.

Will we ever see publishers offering fully subsidized Kindles? Share your thoughts in the comment box below. 

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has been a Kindle owner since 2008 and an iPad owner since last April. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. The Fool has a disclosure policy.