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Kobo Touch Launch Not Going Well in Japan – Rakuten Now Hiding User Reviews

It’s been just under a week since the Kobo Touch started shipping in Japan, and things are going so well that Rakuten has removed from their website all the reviews of the Kobo Touch.

No, seriously, all of the reviews are down – both good and bad.  I suppose there were too many people writing things like "I’m going to buy a Kindle" and that upset someone at Rakuten.

Luckily one of Rakuten’s potential customers tipped me to the story, including giving me a link to a blog that had collected responses and a screenshot of the review page before Raskuten removed it. That’s why I can show you things like this:

If you can’t see the image above, it says that the Kobo Touch has a 3 star rating largely due to the vast number of 1 star reviews. I unfortunately cannot show you the reviews themselves; no one thought to save them before it was too late. But I have been told that the many low ratings shared a number of complaints:

Generally people were complaining in their reviews about problem with crashing setup of kobo desktop application, very limited offer of Japanese books, unresponsive touch screens, poor customer service, etc

And you have to admit that graphic speaks for itself.

Update: My source found a Google Cache page of reviews. Thanks, Bibo!

Second Update: I’ve been reading some of the reviews. Here’s one that jumped out at me.

Reading revolution seems to have ended in failure, unfortunately. Ringleader of the revolution or imprisoned or beheaded will?

Rakuten launched the Kobo Touch in Japan with the expectation that they would dominate their home market. They are native to the country, and Rakuten does have a sizable retail presence there. Given their technical and CS resources, you’d think they would have been able to pull this off.

Unfortunately, it now looks like Rakuten has paved the way for Amazon to dominate yet another ebook market.This launch is rapidly turning into a debacle and  it’s going to damage Rakuten’s reputation. And according to some of the tweets I’ve seen (in Japanese) it already is.

Folks, they took the reviews down from the website so new customers wouldn’t be warned about the many problems. I want you to look past the fact they did it and think about how customers will feel once they discover the deception. That is what will make this a major debacle and not merely an embarrassment for Rakuten.

A bad launch could be recovered from. This is closer to being a systematic effort to lie to their customers. Okay, eventually people will forgive Rakuten, but in the short run this debacle could drive readers to Amazon.

And we know Amazon is planning to launch in Japan as soon as they can. If they get the Kindle Store live in Japan in the next month or so they’ll be able to capitalize on this story without lifting a finger.

I’ve reached out to Kobo, but they not yet responded at the time I posted this. I will update this post with their response.

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Tyler July 24, 2012 um 2:08 pm

I read through all of those reviews. Those people are so upset with their Kobos they are writing in Japanese!

Rashkae July 24, 2012 um 4:49 pm

If you follow the debacle of the the Kobo Touch version 2 firmware that was released immediately prior to the Japanese launch (presumably as Kobo starts incorporating the changes that were required for the Japanese version.), this is no surprise at all.

fjtorres July 24, 2012 um 6:13 pm

Isn’t the japanese software coming from Access instead of Kobo?

Nate Hoffelder July 24, 2012 um 6:16 pm

Parts of it is coming from Access. The rest is from kobo and apparently the integration didn’t go well.

fjtorres July 24, 2012 um 6:41 pm

Not unheard of.

Kebin July 24, 2012 um 9:22 pm

Most of the complaints were related to instalation and setup. Apparently you need to install the "Kobo Desktop" software on the PC to use the Kobo Touch. However, installation of this software failed a lot of times and, even if it did install, the Kobo Touch software often did not upgrade and couldn’t be activated. In short, cranky Japanese paid money for a brick. Yep, that would cause a large number of 1-star reviews
There were also complaints about there being few books. Rakuten advertised that 30,000 Japanese books would be available; in fact there was only 18,894.

yuzutea July 25, 2012 um 3:01 am

Not only that, the majority of these books are public domain/free titles.

fjtorres July 25, 2012 um 7:10 am

So after that big "Kill Amazon" dog and pony show, the attending publishers left Rakuten to fend for itself?
Hmm, typical of the breed.

yuzutea July 25, 2012 um 9:37 am
Interview with a Rakuten executive. He apologizes for the problems with the Kobo reader, especially those regarding the software.

He says that the hardware was fine, but adapting the software to Japanese caused the problems, which they will fix.

On how it was advertised as 30,000 available works, but far fewer than that are available: he claims publishers will put out the ebooks at their own pace, because they need to format them in epub3 and check them.

On the hiding of the reviews: He says that many were just rants and that since they will improve the product, the existing reviews will not be accurate.

He also pledges to improve the manual and help pages, which many found inadequate.

Bree July 25, 2012 um 11:30 am

As Rashkae indicated, there was an ongoing problem with the firmware. I bought a Kobo Touch not long ago – the touchscreen had glitch problems, inconsistent, sometimes freezing and needing reset. Finally, I took it back and they gave me another one. Luckily I knew that the firmware was a problem and did not upgrade, did not connect online to Kobo and voila – it works fine. The software version that my current unit shipped with is 1.9.9 and it works fine. The problems arise when you upgrade to the newer version, and / or, connect your Kobo online with the store. Sorry Kobo but that’s pretty lame stuff. Esp. when you release it to the Japanese market w. fubar firmware.

Graham July 28, 2012 um 11:08 pm

I’ve been a fairly happy owner of the Kobo for about 6 months now. I followed ereader news fairly closely at the time I got it and was not aware of any major issues with the device. I recently updated to the latest version and it has gone fairly smoothly, there are complaints on Mobile Read but nothing major. Not aware of any debacle.

The device isn’t perfect really doesn’t lag behind the competition IMO.

raichea July 30, 2012 um 4:46 pm

I’ve not had any major problems with KB… seems a good device to me.

Why does the blogger "reach out" instead of "contact" – I hate that expression!!!

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