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Tesco’s BlinkBox Books Launches in the UK

With littleindex fanfare, the UK retailer Tesco launched their new ebook store today. This highly anticipated site was first announced last March, and its launch completes Tesco’s digital trifecta.

BlinkBox Books offers a broad selection of titles which can be read on the related Android, iPhone, or iPad apps as well as on compatible ebook readers or on Tesco’s Hudl tablet. Tesco hasn’t revealed just how many titles they carry, but reports have been circulating that Tesco has been aggressively pursuing deals with publishers.

Update: Guess what? Blinkbox Books doesn’t support ereaders. I think that’s a good reason to avoid the store.

This UK retailer has been working to build a digital content store for several years now. They’ve bought several companies, including Blinkbox (a movie service), We7 (music), and MobCast (a white-label ebookstore). That last was bought in September 2012, which should give you an idea just how long Tesco has been working towards today’s launch.

tesco hudl 4Tesco has also launched an Android tablet in September 2013. The Hudl, which was developed in partnership with the French tablet maker Archos, was clearly intended to compliment the BlinkBox content store in much the same way that the Kindle Fire tablet complements Amazon’s music, video, and ebook retail operations.

As of early December Tesco reported that they had sold 300,000 Hudle tablets in just under 2 months. A second model was rumored to launch in March, but I think that window may have passed.

BlinkBox Books is being launched into a highly competitive market where several strong retailers have already staked a claim. In addition to Amazon, Kobo, Apple, and Google, there are also local competitors like Sainsburys and Waterstones, which sells Epub ebooks in addition to selling Kindles.

The latest estimates peg the UK ebook market at £80 million in 2013, an increase of 20% from 2012. Around 29% of respondents in a survey have read an ebook recently.

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Ebook Bargains UK March 25, 2014 um 5:43 pm

We’re guessing this is a soft launch and there will be some formal launch in the near future (Easter?), to allow any embarassing glitches to be sorted.

So far the site looks clean and crisp, and all importantlky follows the Sainsbury lead and is not being run as part of the Tesco store website or even the existing Blinkbox video and music sites.

So far it appears to be an indie-free zone, although we’re told (not yet confirmed) Blinkbox is / will be supplied by Gardners as well as dealing with the big publishers direct, so there may be some wriggle-room for savvy indies to get in through the back door.

But being indie-free right now provides an interesting insight into how the big publishing houses are using tools like free ebooks to play the markets. Check out the Blnkbox free section for a great selection of titles that are going to pull in a lot of new readers.

This new site is a world apart from the old Tesco ebook store (possibly the most dreadful ebook store ever to be inflicted on the public), and a world apart from the Mobcast Uncuva effort.

Sainsbury have shown themselvs to be innovative and able to use their bricks and mortar stores to sell ebooks, and we can expect Tesco to do the same only bigger and better. We’re hoping to see a Sainsbury tablet this year, and a second Hudl seems to be a given.

But it looks like Tesco are in ro rush, and – as with the much delayed site launch – will do things in their own time.

Fbone March 25, 2014 um 7:55 pm

Ebooks can only be read on iPhone and Android apps. No ereaders.

Nate Hoffelder March 25, 2014 um 8:29 pm

Sorry, I jumped to the wrong conclusion. Will fix.

Ebook Bargains UK March 26, 2014 um 4:04 am

Surely avoiding the store because it doesn’t support e-readers is only pertinent is you use an e-reader.

For 99% of Brits who have an ereader they will be buying from the store associated with the device anyway, and the majority of ereaders in the UK will be Kindles, with Kobo a close second, so it makes sense for Tesco to steer clear.

As dual-screen or e-ink smartphones and tablets become more readily available the future for ereaders looks bleak anyway.

As an anecdotal aside, outside London the (very unscientific) surveys we’ve conducted suggest the Kobo is far more prevalent than the Kindle once you look beyond the early-adopters, reflecting the high-visibility promotion of the Kobo in W H Smith stores nationwide and the pretty-much non-existent promotion of the Kindle devices in Waterstone’s stores.

Off-the-record discussions with Waterstone’s staff in stores in several big cities suggest very few Kindle devices are being sold in-store, and the staff understandably see no reason to encourage the few customers who do show an interest.

sasha March 28, 2014 um 8:13 am

oh!! its great to hear about the second launch of Tesco’s Books tablets …….

BrianLargo November 17, 2014 um 7:58 am

After "buying" a book at around 50% more than Amazon you discover that the book isn’t on your tablet and can only be read when you have a wifi connection so forget reading on a beach or highland glen. Chocolate teapot?

BrianLargo November 17, 2014 um 8:16 am

Sorry, my comment about wifi is not correct. You need wifi to sign into the app but as long as you don’t sign out you can continue to read even if the wifi signal is lost.

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