Tolino, aka Germany’s Answer to the Kindle, Expands into Italy, Netherlands
Germany’s response to the Kindle gained its third non-German partner this week, the leading Italian retailer IBS.it. IBS will be selling ebooks on its site starting in November, and will also be promoting Tolino tablets and ebook readers in store.
With 44 owned and partner bookstores, IBS.it has a far smaller retail foot print than Mondadori (350 stores), Kobo’s partner in Italy, or Giunti al Punto (170 stores), Amazon’s partner in Italy. It’s difficult for this outsider to estimate market share, but I see that the local coverage mentions that IBS.it serves 2.8 million customers annually.
Formed early last year as a response to the Kindle, Tolino is a shared ebook platform which is supported by 5 German medial retailers and tech companies ( Thalia, Weltbild, Hugendubel, Club Bertelsmann, and Deutsche Telekom). It was originally a German response to Amazon, but over the past few months this coalition has taken on a decidedly regional flavor.
In July the Belgian retailer Standaard Boekhandel launched an ebookstore on the Tolino platform, followed last month by the Dutch bookstore coop Libri, and in November the Italian retailer IBS.it will follow suit.
With the addition of IBS, Tolino will have retailers spread across 4 countries in central Europe with around 1,500 retail stores in Germany and 300 stores in other countries.
Will that be enough to counter Amazon?
Well, it’s not enough to defeat that juggernaut but it does at least seem to be holding Amazon at bay. Boersenblatt quotes Nina Hugendubel, managing partner of the bookstore Hugendubel, as saying that the Tolino platform had around 35% of the German ebook market.
That is somewhere in the same neighborhood of the market share Tolino had when it launched last spring, so at worst you can say that Tolino has been treading water as the ebook market grew. And given Germany’s fixed price book laws, and the way such laws discourage customers from shopping around, I’m not sure one could have expected real market disruption.
Note though, that holding steady isn’t necessarily a criticism of Tolino as an idea; it was formed as much to pool resources and reduce costs as a response to Amazon. While the member retailers each have their own ebookstore, they share platform costs and development costs for Tolino’s ereaders and tablets, including the waterproof Vision 2 ereader which was announced earlier this week.