Today Sony continued to confuse everyone watching the global ebook market. They’ve just formally launched the Sony Reader Store in Australia, their 8th local ebookstore (US, Canada, and Europe) and their first antipodal ebookstore.
“We are proud to bring our Reader Store eBook offering to customers in Australia,” said Tad Kitsukawa, managing director Sony Digital Reading Services.”With the widely accepted, open ePUB format and our focus on local Australian eBook selections, we believe Australians will be excited to choose Reader Store for any book they want to read.”
I’m scratching my head this morning because Sony launched their ereaders in Australia and New Zealand in September 2010. And now, 2 and a half years later, Sony is launching the ebookstore to go with the ereaders.
That’s odd, I know, but it gets stranger.
One detail not mentioned in the press release today is that back in 2010, Sony decided to send their Australian customers to the Kobo store instead of opening an independent ebookstore. That made a lot of sense at the time, and in fact it still makes sense. Australia/NZ was not a big market in the first place (population < 30 million) and Sony was never going to make much money there. And at the time Kobo looked like it could dominate that market, something which is no longer true (Kobo is in a solid 3rd place after Kindle, iBooks). By sending ebook buyers to Kobo, Sony saved the expense and CS headache of operating an ebookstore.
But I guess that might no longer be true, or at least Sony doesn’t care about the profitability or expenses. That is the part that makes no sense, though it does fit with their ongoing investment in ebooks.
Speaking of which, Sony has made a number of investments in their ebook platform recently. In addition to expanding into Austria, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain, Sony has released an updated reading app for Android that added support for Epub3, and they have added a new section to their ebookstore for Epub3 ebooks. Both steps are intended to put Sony on the cutting edge of ebooks and represent a deep interest in future market growth.
I have long been working under the theory that this makes sense to Sony, and that this is not as crazy as it looks. But I freely admit that I don’t see what Sony is going to gain from today’s launch.