I read last night on Business Insider that Walmart and Japanese e-book distributor Rakuten are partnering to offer Kobo e-books and audio books on Walmart.com. I’m very intrigued by this and think it’s an excellent venture! It’s merely my opinion that Amazon doesn’t have nearly enough competition (Is the Nook even competition at all?). So I’m pleased about this, yet I have only one concern.
Amazon’s introductory Kindle is available for $80 new. However, Amazon’s introductory Kindle has a keyboard and no back light. The first Kindle model that is touch and has a back light is their Paperwhite for $120. This is also the price of Rakuten’s cheapest Kobo e-reader, the Kobo Aura, which is also touch and has a back light (ComfortLight).
So I am somewhat concerned that Walmart and Rakuten Kobo may have a little bit of trouble selling Kobo e-readers on Walmart.com. Yet, if Rakuten and Walmart market the e-readers right, they could sell very well. After all, an e-reader, in my opinion, isn’t worth buying if it has no back light; and using a keyboard is quite annoying. Walmart and Rakuten Kobo will need to convince their market of that, too, though. A good portion of people may not mind a keyboard and no back light and buy Amazon’s introductory e-reader for $40 less.
In addition, those that have e-reader experience like me may find themselves already invested in a Nook or Kindle. I have hundreds of Kindle e-books and am not enthused to spend $120 on a completely new e-reader that does not support my bookshelf. One major minus for me though, is that my Kindle Paperwhite cannot run audio books. But if I want to listen to audio books, I can download the Kindle app.
The Marketing Battlefield
Walmart and Rakuten Kobo have some considerable mountains to climb over:
- Amazon’s Kindle family is very well-known. People know what to expect and trust it. Not so much with Kobo’s e-readers.
- Millions of people are dedicated Kindle (or Nook) users.
- Or, they may not care about their Kindle, but have hundreds of books they’ve bought. Why switch?
- Amazon currently dominates the e-book world (83%). Publishers and authors feel they must publish with Amazon to gain any readership at all. Why publish with a relative unknown like Rakuten (0.3%)?
- Amazon’s e-book library is massive! Compare that to Rakuten’s smaller library.
- Kindle is nearly universally supported. Even without an actual Kindle, a person can download the Kindle app on most desktop and mobile devices for free.
However, Walmart and Rakuten Kobo have some major pluses they could market:
- The Kobo e-reader family are user-friendly alternatives to Amazon’s Kindle family.
- The Kobo is a high-quality e-reader.
- Must Kobo models are waterproof.
- All Kobo models have backlight (ComfortLight).
- All models have wifi.
- Walmart and Kobo will be offering a free app for desktop and mobile devices that will load Kobo e-books and audio books.
There are many other considerations for the current or considering e-reader enthusiast. Some include GB of space, customizable options (text, sizing, etc), screen size, and screen resolution. However, for me, the top three biggest considerations are touch, backlight, and book title library. How about you?