According to a notice posted to the Anobii Beta website, Sainsbury's is going to be taking over the beta website and renaming it as eBooks by Sainsbury's. The beta site had been designed with the goal of introducing ebook sales to the Anobii website, so it makes perfect sense that Sainsbury's would wish to make better use of their subsidiary. The notice goes on to state that the existing Anobii ebook community will continue to exist in its current form.
Here is where things get complicated. Sainsbury's already has a very nice looking ebookstore called eBooks by Sainsbury's. They even have apps for iOS and Android, and Anobii is credited for developing all three. With that in mind today's news is more of a consolidation than a simple renaming.
According to the Anobii blog, Anobii had been working to develop the Beta site and sell ebooks since at least May 2012, about a month before Sainsbury's bought the 64% controlling interest from HMV Group. The ebookstore sells Epub ebooks (Adobe DRM) and was only open to UK residents at that time.
Now this is an interesting way to get into ebooks. Rather than partner with the juggernaut Amazon (like Waterstones) or the mighty mite Kobo (like WHSmith), Sainsbury's is choosing to go it alone. They spent a pound to buy Anobii and then spent (I'm guessing) a
few million quid in development costs. Sainsbury's could have followed a similar path and partnered with B&N, but by going it alone this retailer might be in a position to make more money from selling ebooks than either WHSmith or Waterstones.
The thing is, Sainsbury's won't be earning the tiny commission that WHSmith and Waterstones receive from their respective senior partners. Instead Sainsbury's is acting as their own retailer so they will be getting the full 30% retail commission on agency priced ebooks. Even with a smaller market share that could potentially be more money.
Of course, I don't know that very many people are buying ebooks from Sainsbury's yet (the apps have only a few reviews), so I could be reading too much into this.