Rakuten to sell its own e-reader

June 21, 2012


Rakuten Inc., Japan's top online retailer, will release its own e-book reader in late July, marking its full-fledged entry into the e-book market.

Hiroshi Mikitani, Rakuten chairman and CEO, said the company plans to price the Kobo Touch reader at around 10,000 yen ($126), considerably lower than that for existing similar devices.

He said Rakuten may decide to charge even less.

U.S. online retailer Amazon.com Inc. is expected to announce later this year when it will begin offering a Japanese version of its Kindle e-reader.

Rakuten hopes to seize the upper hand in the e-book business by marketing its e-reader earlier than its U.S. rival.

"As a Japanese company, we cannot lose (to overseas rivals)," Mikitani told The Asahi Shimbun. "With Kobo devices, we will be able to export Japanese content. The Japanese publishing industry will become a huge content industry."

The Kobo Touch was developed by Canadian e-reader maker Kobo, which was acquired by Rakuten in January.

Rakuten expects to offer around 50,000 titles by year's end, about the same level as other e-book stores.

The company's strategy is to rapidly expand overall e-book sales in Japan by offering a lower-priced device.

Mikitani will announce details of the new business at a news conference in early July.

Rakuten will sell the Kobo Touch reader not only through its Rakuten Ichiba online shopping mall but also at major electronics retailers. It will accept advance orders from July 2.

The Kobo Touch will be the first e-book reader in Japan to use the EPUB data format, which is becoming a global standard.

The black-and-white E Ink screen is used for the display.

Kobo's devices are already available in nine countries, including Canada and the United States.

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The Kobo Touch e-reader (Naoki Takehata)

The Kobo Touch e-reader (Naoki Takehata)

  • The Kobo Touch e-reader (Naoki Takehata)
  • Rakuten Inc. CEO Hiroshi Mikitani (The Asahi Shimbun)

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