It's been just under a week since the Kobo Touch started shipping in Japan, and things are going so well that Rakuten has removed from their website all the reviews of the Kobo Touch.
No, seriously, all of the reviews are down - both good and bad. I suppose there were too many people writing things like "I'm going to buy a Kindle" and that upset someone at Rakuten.
Luckily one of Rakuten's potential customers tipped me to the story, including giving me a link to a blog that had collected responses and a screenshot of the review page before Raskuten removed it. That's why I can show you things like this:
If you can't see the image above, it says that the Kobo Touch has a 3 star rating largely due to the vast number of 1 star reviews. I unfortunately cannot show you the reviews themselves; no one thought to save them before it was too late. But I have been told that the many low ratings shared a number of complaints:
Generally people were complaining in their reviews about problem with crashing setup of kobo desktop application, very limited offer of Japanese books, unresponsive touch screens, poor customer service, etc
And you have to admit that graphic speaks for itself.
Update: My source found a Google Cache page of reviews. Thanks, Bibo!
Second Update: I've been reading some of the reviews. Here's one that jumped out at me.
Reading revolution seems to have ended in failure, unfortunately. Ringleader of the revolution or imprisoned or beheaded will?
Rakuten launched the Kobo Touch in Japan with the expectation that they would dominate their home market. They are native to the country, and Rakuten does have a sizable retail presence there. Given their technical and CS resources, you'd think they would have been able to pull this off.
Unfortunately, it now looks like Rakuten has paved the way for Amazon to dominate yet another ebook market.This launch is rapidly turning into a debacle and it's going to damage Rakuten's reputation. And according to some of the tweets I've seen (in Japanese) it already is.
Folks, they took the reviews down from the website so new customers wouldn't be warned about the many problems. I want you to look past the fact they did it and think about how customers will feel once they discover the deception. That is what will make this a major debacle and not merely an embarrassment for Rakuten.
A bad launch could be recovered from. This is closer to being a systematic effort to lie to their customers. Okay, eventually people will forgive Rakuten, but in the short run this debacle could drive readers to Amazon.
And we know Amazon is planning to launch in Japan as soon as they can. If they get the Kindle Store live in Japan in the next month or so they'll be able to capitalize on this story without lifting a finger.
I've reached out to Kobo, but they not yet responded at the time I posted this. I will update this post with their response.