Rakuten to Launch Kobo Touch in Japan

Did you catch the news on Thursday about Kobo and Rakuten? I couldn’t cover it because I was busy with CES 2012, but that was the day that Rakuten finalized the purchase of Kobo.

Just over 2 months ago Kobo surprised the reading world with the news that they had been bought by Rakuten. The Japanese retail giant  put down $315 million to buy Kobo. They did not release any plans at the time, but today I learned that Rakuten  is already getting ready to release the Kobo Touch in Japan.

The launch day is still up in the air, but Rakuten is hinting that it might happen as soon as this spring. They’ve been laying the groundwork for some time now, and they’ve even launched their own ebookstore. Raboo opened its doors in July 2011, and it currently supports the Japanese version of the Sony Reader Wifi as well as Panasonic’s ereader, the UT-PB1.

Since launching the ebookstore, Rakuten has been meeting with publishers and is rumored to be having more success than Amazon (I don’t see how they could be having less).

While we don’t know the time frame for a launch, Rakuten did mention the price. They’re planning to sell the Kobo Touch for round 10k yen ($130). That’s half the Japanese retail for the Sony Reader Wifi and a third the price of the UT-PB1. I almost feel sorry for Sony; their ebookstore partner is going to undercut the hardware price and start a price war that Sony cannot win.

So now that we know that Japan is the next market for Kobo, what do you think is coming after that? I don’t know, but let’s have some fun speculating.

My guess is on China. Rakuten already has a presence there. They have a number of ongoing business partnerships with Baidu, the search engine giant. Rakuten  could build on their  name recognition and established contacts  and launch an ebookstore in China with a minimum of effort.

But what’s next  after Japan, do you think?



Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. Mikaela17 January, 2012

    I think Sweden. Kobo said at a conference in June 2011 that they planned to launch a Swedish store.
    Also, they are listed as partners , along with Overdrive (O_o), on a Swedish ebook converter/ distrubtors webpage.Then there is the fact that right now the only two brands with a local presence is Sony and Bookeen.

    Oh, and did I mention that Kobo’s ebooks sales in Scandinavia increased with 350 % during 2011? ( Or was it 2010?)

    Things might be different now that Kobo is owned by Rakuten, though. But I still think Kobo is launching a Swedish store this year.

  2. […] in Japan, where Rakuten has a solid presence in the online retail market. That launch has been in the works since January, and there’s no news on when it will happen. Further launches are planned for Portugal, […]

  3. […] 21st, 2012 by Nate Hoffelder · No Comments · ebookstore newsRakuten has long been planning to launch the Kobo Touch in Japan, but they’ve also been vague on exactly when that would happen. Today that changed. […]


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