Earlier today Sony announced that they are shutting down the US and Canadian branch of the Sony Reader Store. There's no news yet on the UK, European, Japanese, or Australian branches, but starting in March Sony's North American customers will need to find a new place to find a new place to buy ebooks.
Sony is replacing their ebookstore and reading app in the NA market with a newly announced partnership with Kobo. The Kobo Android app will replace Sony's app on Sony's tablets and smartphones, and Kobo will also sell ebooks for the Sony Reader. The transition will start in the next few weeks, and by the end of March Sony and Kobo plan to have all Sony customers migrated to the Kobo Store.
Few might remember, but the two companies have worked together in the past. When Sony initially launched the Sony Reader in Australia in September 2010, they did not have an ebookstore. Instead they directed their customers to the Kobo store, which supplied ebooks to Sony Reader owners for a couple years. Sony didn't launch the Reader Store in Australia until May 2013.
Like the last 2 Sony Readers, the PRS-T3 has an ebookstore on the device. It's not clear at this time whether that ebookstore will continue to operate or whether owners of the PTS-T3 (and earlier models) will be required to side load all of their ebooks via USB. The press release suggests that users will still be able to buy ebooks from the device, but I am working to confirm that (the FAQ confirms it).
The Sony Reader PRS-T3 was never released in the US when it was announced last Fall, but it was released in Canada. That seemed like a strange move at the time but now it would appear that the new arrangement with Kobo might have been in the works at that time.
Sony is not by any stretch of the imagination a major player in the ebook market, but I had thought I understood their interest. I had concluded in May 2013 that Sony's interest in ebooks matched Apple's and Samsung's; all 3 companies were more interested in the hardware the ebooks were read on (tablets and smartphones) and saw the ebooks as a compliment to the gadgets.
This also explained why Sony invested in (limited) Epub3 support in their iPad and iPhone apps, and expanded the Reader Store with a kid's book section that focused on enhanced ebooks (in Epub3).
Now I don't know what to think. But that's okay; I'm not sure that even Sony knows what they plan to do with ebooks next.
P.S. In related news, Sony also recently sold off their PC division to a Japanese investment fund, Japan Industrial Partners (JIP).
image via Engadget