Rakuten launched the Kobo Touch in Japan a couple weeks ago, and since that time they've had technical issues, customer service issues, and today I learned that they might be having issues getting Japanese consumers interested in the Kobo Touch at all.
I've just come across the results of a survey. 1,078 Japanese consumers were polled in early July about their gadget preferences, and a surprisingly low number even knew the Kobo Touch existed.
I don't have the full results in front of me (they're for sale), but I do have the answer to 3 of the questions. There's both good news and bad news. The good news is that 35% of respondents have read an ebook before, with another 28% expressing interest in reading ebooks. Those are decent numbers, and they show that ebooks are seeing a greater adoption in Japan than in the US, where only 29% of consumers had read one.
The bad news comes up when you ask them if they own or have ever used an ereader. Less than 1 in 10 (of the 62% mentioned above) said yes. In spite of having a decent adoption rate, Japan looks to be an app-focused ebook market, and that does not bode well for Rakuten.
I'm singling Rakuten out here because Amazon has the marketing muscle to get readers interested in the Kindle while the Kobo Touch is hardly know in Japan. And that brings up the third question.
I'm still trying to decide whether to put any weight into the question, but I'll share it anyway. The 68 respondents who answered yes to the second question were then asked to identify which ereaders they thought they might use, and they were allowed to check off multiple boxes.
The Kindle of course came in first with 41%, even though Amazon hasn't yet opened a Kindle Store there. The Sony Reader came in second with 37%, with the Sharp Galapagos, Panasonic UT-PB1 (15%), KDDI biblioLeaf (8%), and the Nook (3%) filling out the top 5. That's good news for Amazon; if and when they launch a local Japanese Kindle Store everyone will know who they are.
So where's the Kobo Touch in this? That's the problem with this survey; the researchers forgot to include it as an option and one respondent even commented on the absence. So the Kobo Touch falls somewhere in the other ereader category (4.6%), which is shockingly small.
I had thought when I started reading the survey results that it would be common knowledge in Japan that Rakuten owned Kobo and that they planned to launch the Kobo Touch in Japan this year. I've known this since January, and I learned from a Japanese newspaper. That story made the rounds again in June, so it would seem likely that the Japanese consumers would know about the Kobo Touch.
I'm still trying to decide if I should ignore that question; if you accept it as valid then Rakuten has an enormous recognition problem. No one knew about the Kobo Touch, in spite of the well-timed leaks. Add the lack of recognition to Rakuten's less-than-stellar performance since the KT launched and you get a market ripe for Amazon to dominate.
TBH, I think I'll wait until the next survey to start crying doom and gloom. This just isn't enough to rely upon.