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Tolino Shine eReader Launched – Germany’s Next Marginally Successful eReader

tolino_shine_wb-shop So 3 German booksellers, Deutche Telekom, and Bertelsmann walk in a press conference ... and announce they are going to be selling a new ereader called the Tolino Shine. The Shine is going to bring generic ereaders to a whole new level. Its bland "me-too" design is based around the same HD E-ink screen found on the KPW and Kobo Glo. Like pretty much every other new 6" ereader on the market, the Shine also has a frontlight, Wifi, and a touchscreen (IR). This ereader has 4GB Flash storage, a microSD card slot, and claims up 7 weeks battery life. It is going to retail for 99 euros when it ships next week.

Edit: This ereader also has access to 25GB of online storage (provided by the Tolino platform).

All 5 Tolino partners (Thalia, WeltBild, Hugendubel, Deutche Telekom, and Bertelsmann) will carry the Shine in their 1,500 retail stores across Germany or on their website. eBooks will be provided via one of the 5 ebookstores maintained by the 5 partners. I am told that all of the ebookstores have been updated to switch them from their current platforms to a new one developed by Deutche Telekom. Some of the 5 partners have released reading apps, and in the near future those apps will also be updated to use the new ebookstore.


image via

Readers will also be able to buy ebooks from the device itself as well as at Deutche Telekom's 11,000 wifi hotspots across Germany. The new ebookstore boasts 300,000 German language titles.

So this is a Kindle killer? If you ask me, I think the Tolino partners forgot that in order to win you need to do something better than the dominant player or have some appealing feature that attracts users. I don't see how the Shine meets those requirements.

Here's a hands on video from Tell me if you think it looks like anything special:

And frankly, this is 2013. They're not going to win the ebook market on hardware. And that goes double when you factor in the statistic that the global ereader market is shrinking, not growing.

Don't believe me? Even what little stats I have on the German ebook market shows that I am probably correct. Last October BitKom reported that 11% of Germans read ebooks (9-ish million people). They predicted elsewhere that around a million ereaders would be sold in Germany last year (far fewer than the 12% of Germans who own a tablet). That leads to the obvious conclusion that most of those readers are not using a dedicated ebook reader. They read with an app running on a smartphone, tablet, or computer.

I would say it's pretty clear that focusing on ereader hardware is a sub-optimal choice.

Let me know when Tolino has a plan to sell ebooks better than Amazon, because that is the point at which they might start winning. At this point all I can see is that they are making the same hardware mistake as everyone else.


About Nate Hoffelder (11117 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader: "I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

39 Comments on Tolino Shine eReader Launched – Germany’s Next Marginally Successful eReader

  1. Do something better?
    If that picture above is the home screen they are already starting out with two demerits.
    (The first being the honking big, ugly, and awfully place power button.)
    The reading app looks to be generic ADE mobile.
    I’m thinking rush job…

  2. I Kobo in Germany too? This is a move against them too. And there goes the Nook’s chance.

  3. Hey, you just don’t understand. It’s the first ereader that has all the latest most advanced specs at once:

    – ANDROID !!!!!!111111
    – HD E-Ink screen 758×1024
    – Infrared multitouch
    – Frontlight

    So obviously it’s the ultimate choice for those that were waiting for the best most advanced ereader to be rooted and turned into an E-Ink tablet PC. Previously the best base device for turning into a tablet was the Nook ST, but now it lags behind.

    I just hope that it will be rooted soon enough.

  4. The power button is on the top edge (slider). On the front is the home button.

  5. While this device certainly deserves an anti-design award for its lack of taste, one conceptual advantage it has over a Kindle Paperwhite is its lack of vendor lock-in. Weltbild, Thalia and Hugendubel still run their own eStores where they compete with each other and where readers have the choice to select one from their one device, although it is not clear whether the model is open for further partners to join the party.

    Another potentially interesting aspect might be that the device uses Android. This might lead to added value in the form of apps that turn the device into something more flexible than just an eReader. It is unclear though, whether there will actually be app stores.

    Finally, this will be the cheapest and lightest device on the German market that features frontlight, WLAN and touchscreen. The Kobo Glo, for instance, is 30% more expensive.

  6. Vendor lock-in hasn’t proven to be a concern of mainstream buyers in any market Kindle has set up shop yet. It is, however, a nice marketting bullet for Adobe sales reps. 😉

  7. I’m not keen on the IR touch. Is multitouch confirmed?

    What version of Android is it? Nook Touch has 2.x (as does Sony T).

  8. Looks decent, especially at that price, but as the video shows: it’s no Paperwhite. :)
    I agree that their best matchup is going to be Kobo.
    Me, I’d be inclined to see what the Sony T3 brings to the table, but I can afford to wait.

  9. >>>Sony T3

    Earth to fjtorres: Please come back, we miss you.

  10. We’ve been there before.
    Wanna bet which shows up first? The T3 or your Archos Dream-tab? 😀

  11. The 80 Titanium is already on sale in the UK, so one is actually out. Reviews have been surprisingly good. Unfortunately, today I found a tweet where an 80 owner had it die within the first week of using it! I was afraid of that…

    It’s too late for Sony to do anything. And there is no reason for a T3. They’ve had two shots to get Android right — and blew them both.

  12. Can one browse the web with it or not? My Kindle 3 does an adequate job accessing e-mail and browsing news sites, plus downloading entire non-paginated web pages for reading later, with an added advantage (using “article mode”) of dumping all the advertising on any page and including just the text itself in readable-size typeface. It also saves web page URLs for access later at any time. Kindle called it “experimental” but it has always been adequate for web access. Will not play videos, though (big deal!). The unit’s 5-way controller works just like an external mouse accessing new URLs on a page except it won’t open multiple pages.

  13. Forgot to mention my Kindle 3 web browser also permits web mail access and sending simple e-mails without forced paragraphing (it has no “return-enter” key). Like the new Tolino, one has to charge it maybe once a week even using it an hour a day for web browsing/reading.

  14. All these Kindle 3 web features are on top of the reader’s primary facility of 6 GB storage for up to 3,000 books and regular Wi-Fi instant downloading of any Kindle store book purchase.

  15. Hmm, you have 3 booksellers but only one ebookstore.
    So there is no differentiation, no competition.
    Same books, same prices; it’s all about brand loyalty.
    It could work… for a while.
    But it looks like a 5-way Nook play and we’ve seen how that only goes so far.
    They have work to do and, depending on how much market there is in Germany for “global english” books they may not have much time to do it in.
    As the price fix conspiracy in the US proved, pricing is the *least* important of Amazon’s competitive tools.

  16. 5 ebookstores. Bertelsmann and DT also have ebookstores and all 5 are using the one platform.

    BTW, Bertelsmann is a media retailer in Germany.

  17. Five branded front ends.
    (Like the Borders-fronted Kobo ebookstore in the US.)

    Thing is, they’re using ADEPT DRM, right?
    And germany is a no-discounting-allowed country.
    The only advantage to multiple front-ends to the same backend system is reduced costs; it doesn’t offer anything extra to *consumers*.

    And the on-the-ground reports in the Passive Voice comments make it sound like the bookstore will not be doing anything on the small-pub/self-pub side.

    Cora said:
    “As for what this means for indies, so far Thalia, Weltbild, Hugendubel, Club Bertelsmann and the Telekom’s PagePlace are far less indie friendly than Amazon. XinXii distributes to PagePlace, Weltbild and Hugendubel – provided you have an ISBN – while getting into Thalia is very difficult for indies. Club Bertelsmann is pretty much impossible due to its direct Big Five ties. And at least from Thalia, I have had the response that they have no plans to implement something like KDP or PubIt.”

    So it’s going to be focused primarily on big publisher books and “bestsellers”.
    A generic catalog at generic prices running on (apparently) decent but generic hardware and software. I just don’t see differentiation or value add in five brands pointing to the same store.
    Five brands or one, it’s still just one ebookstore.

    As Sun’s Scott McNeally said when HP bought Apollo back in the 90’s; “All it means is I only have one competitor to worry about instead of two.”

    Tolino looks to be all about customer loyalty and getting their B&M customers into *their* ebookstore. Other than the co-op aspect they’re not doing anything other B&M chains elsewhere haven’t done before.

    I expect Kobo will be the biggest beneficiary if the Shine is in fact ADEPT capable. And if the thing is hackable android, we all know what the first two apps to go on it will be, right?

  18. Yes, I didn’t even see any of the behind the scenes details as being worth a mention. Aside from the minor detail about the shift in platform there really wasn’t that much that was noteworthy.
    But I wish I had noticed the thing about self-pub. That alone is going to keep Tolino from being a kindle-killer.

  19. Ingo Lembcke // 2 March, 2013 at 2:01 pm //

    Kobo: . If you are a German, with a German Browser, German IP and you try to buy a book there, it gets confusing. When I use the shop I use an English Browser, but after Login I still get a mix of German and English on the Website. I snatched up one or two free books, but have not bought from them since, too confusing. Most times I am glad that they are as expensive as the other shops I check and I then I buy at Sony or Amazon mostly, sometimes B&N.

  20. Ingo Lembcke // 2 March, 2013 at 2:19 pm //

    One thing about the German Bookmarket: the price for a book in German is fixed and set, a new book costs the same in every shop. Same goes for ebooks. And as with english ebooks the ebooks costs only slightly less than the cheapest print-version (or even the same). A deadwood book (paper) can be sold with a different price if it is damaged or used.
    So there is not really much, that Thalia can do to make a difference to Hugendubel, Barnes & Noble or Amazon.

    The main difference to Amazon is that you have a Thalia-Shop or a few in every major town, but a big one here in my home-town (Hamburg, a big city) was just announced to be closing. I am lucky in that I shop sometimes at a place where there is a Thalia-Shop, so I will see the reader in a few weeks, then they get them.
    As in my family they bought one of the Oyos (1st gen), they have been burned already and are somewhat weary, but the service in the shop is quite good imho and a serious advantage to Amazon, that you can take the reader-hardware have it explained, buy books in the shop or leaving it there for a firmware-update etc . I know some people depend on that, and the service sounds (to me) better than Barnes&Noble.

    I still wonder why B&N did not move faster to Germany, they where supposed to open shop in Berlin, but so far it is nowhere to be seen, imho. They could have offered a partnership to Thalia (or was that a rumor). But now?

  21. Ingo Lembcke // 2 March, 2013 at 2:27 pm //

    How about a Kindle Paperwhite 2 ?
    (With Android 4.x pretty please!!!)
    Come August 2013 for the next Sony announcement.
    I am not holding my breath, but maybe it is the right time then for my next reader, be it Tolino, Sony, Kindle or whatever.
    Tests from normal users will show how the Tolino compares to the other readers.

  22. That “delusional” I’m not. :)
    Besides, I can get Coolreader onto the current KPW so if I was in the market for eink today that would probably suffice.

  23. I see an interesting experiment taking shape.
    I’m not sure what the german eading market is like–it might be solely litfic and cultural artifacts and totally price-insensitive–but unless things are very different from other markets, I suspect that whatever market exists for genre recreational reading is going to be singularly vulnerable to KDP and Kobo’s Writing Life titles.
    We may see the ebook equivalent of a virgin field epidemic, with vendors used to a protected market with relatively high prices and no discounting confronting ready availability of ebooks that are inherently cheap, discounting or not.
    And then there is the prospect of Tolino buyers bypassing the hardware’s sponsors in favor of Kobo ebooks.
    A nice test of the value of interoperability, no? 😉

  24. German booksellers woke up too late. The advantage they will have over the Kindle is in-store availability at Thalia, Hugendubel and Weltbild, who already sell books, and who already sell their own sub-optimal ereaders (OK, Thalia sells the Bookeen Frontlight HD and it was selling like hotcakes around Christmas) . This is also a disadvantage, since customers who bought their horrid readers in the past may not trust them this time around.

    They use ADE, and 5 different bookstores, meaning also 5 different apps for your phones and tablets, that will all have to be registered with ADE!! This will HAVE to lead to user frustration when they find out they ran out of registration slots and will have to deal with Adobe. Oh, and have you seen how very, very bad the apps are? They can’t compete with Amazon and Kobo in that space.

  25. Does it have a cursor? That is one flaw of the Odyssey Frontlight HD that Thalia is currently selling – great to have a browser, but not if it is missing the most basic functionality.
    Trying to browse to library websites with the Odysseys was a very bad experience versus the Kindle.

  26. Sorry folks, you got it all wrong. Amazon has a horrible reputation in Germany due to exploitation of labor, low wages, terrible work conditions in their supply centers. Thousands of Germans have cancelled their amazon accounts in protest. Many disenchanted customers are moving back to traditional retail channels (same goes for Apple in Germany, by the way).

  27. Amazon has a similar bad reputation here in the US and they’re still doing a brisk business.

    And I’m not sure that Amazon’s misdeeds should matter that much to Tolino. If their success depends on the competition screwing up then god help them.

  28. None of my friends and family have cancelled their accounts with Amazon, and they continue to love Amazon for the ease of returns ad great customer service, so I wonder how many accounts were really affected by the latest reports.

  29. I don’t doubt that thousands are offended and very publicly announcing their intent to boycott.
    But, last I looked, there are 82 million people in Germany and human nature being what it is, the vast majority will quickly forget principle in the face of a good bargain.
    Give it a month or two.

  30. Teresa Reinhardt // 16 March, 2013 at 4:21 pm //

    Or give it a few years – remember what happened to Walmart in Germany?

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