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Tolino Shine eReader Launched – Germany’s Next Marginally Successful eReader

tolino_shine_wb-shop So 3 German booksellers, Deutsche Telekom, and Bertelsmann walk in a press conference … and announce they are going to be selling a new ereader called the Tolino Shine.

The Shine is going to bring generic ereaders to a whole new level. Its bland "me-too" design is based around the same HD E-ink screen found on the KPW and Kobo Glo. Like pretty much every other new 6″ ereader on the market, the Shine also has a frontlight, Wifi, and a touchscreen (IR).

This ereader has 4GB Flash storage, a microSD card slot, and claims up 7 weeks battery life. It is going to retail for 99 euros when it ships next week.

Edit: This ereader also has access to 25GB of online storage (provided by the Tolino platform).

All 5 Tolino partners (Thalia, WeltBild, Hugendubel, Deutche Telekom, and Bertelsmann) will carry the Shine in their 1,500 retail stores across Germany or on their website. eBooks will be provided via one of the 5 ebookstores maintained by the 5 partners. I am told that all of the ebookstores have been updated to switch them from their current platforms to a new one developed by Deutche Telekom. Some of the 5 partners have released reading apps, and in the near future those apps will also be updated to use the new ebookstore.


image via

Readers will also be able to buy ebooks from the device itself as well as at Deutche Telekom’s 11,000 wifi hotspots across Germany. The new ebookstore boasts 300,000 German language titles.

So this is a Kindle killer? If you ask me, I think the Tolino partners forgot that in order to win you need to do something better than the dominant player or have some appealing feature that attracts users. I don’t see how the Shine meets those requirements.

Here’s a hands on video from Tell me if you think it looks like anything special:

And frankly, this is 2013. They’re not going to win the ebook market on hardware. And that goes double when you factor in the statistic that the global ereader market is shrinking, not growing.

Don’t believe me? Even what little stats I have on the German ebook market shows that I am probably correct. Last October BitKom reported that 11% of Germans read ebooks (9-ish million people). They predicted elsewhere that around a million ereaders would be sold in Germany last year (far fewer than the 12% of Germans who own a tablet). That leads to the obvious conclusion that most of those readers are not using a dedicated ebook reader. They read with an app running on a smartphone, tablet, or computer.

I would say it’s pretty clear that focusing on ereader hardware is a sub-optimal choice.

Let me know when Tolino has a plan to sell ebooks better than Amazon, because that is the point at which they might start winning. At this point all I can see is that they are making the same hardware mistake as everyone else.


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fjtorres March 1, 2013 um 12:17 pm

Do something better?
If that picture above is the home screen they are already starting out with two demerits.
(The first being the honking big, ugly, and awfully place power button.)
The reading app looks to be generic ADE mobile.
I’m thinking rush job…

Anthony March 1, 2013 um 1:39 pm

The power button is on the top edge (slider). On the front is the home button.

Mike Cane March 1, 2013 um 12:49 pm

I Kobo in Germany too? This is a move against them too. And there goes the Nook’s chance.

Ingo Lembcke March 2, 2013 um 2:01 pm

Kobo: . If you are a German, with a German Browser, German IP and you try to buy a book there, it gets confusing. When I use the shop I use an English Browser, but after Login I still get a mix of German and English on the Website. I snatched up one or two free books, but have not bought from them since, too confusing. Most times I am glad that they are as expensive as the other shops I check and I then I buy at Sony or Amazon mostly, sometimes B&N.

reichsputin March 1, 2013 um 12:55 pm

Hey, you just don’t understand. It’s the first ereader that has all the latest most advanced specs at once:

– ANDROID !!!!!!111111
– HD E-Ink screen 758×1024
– Infrared multitouch
– Frontlight

So obviously it’s the ultimate choice for those that were waiting for the best most advanced ereader to be rooted and turned into an E-Ink tablet PC. Previously the best base device for turning into a tablet was the Nook ST, but now it lags behind.

I just hope that it will be rooted soon enough.

Mike Cane March 1, 2013 um 3:29 pm

I’m not keen on the IR touch. Is multitouch confirmed?

What version of Android is it? Nook Touch has 2.x (as does Sony T).

name March 1, 2013 um 1:43 pm

While this device certainly deserves an anti-design award for its lack of taste, one conceptual advantage it has over a Kindle Paperwhite is its lack of vendor lock-in. Weltbild, Thalia and Hugendubel still run their own eStores where they compete with each other and where readers have the choice to select one from their one device, although it is not clear whether the model is open for further partners to join the party.

Another potentially interesting aspect might be that the device uses Android. This might lead to added value in the form of apps that turn the device into something more flexible than just an eReader. It is unclear though, whether there will actually be app stores.

Finally, this will be the cheapest and lightest device on the German market that features frontlight, WLAN and touchscreen. The Kobo Glo, for instance, is 30% more expensive.

fjtorres March 1, 2013 um 2:05 pm

Vendor lock-in hasn’t proven to be a concern of mainstream buyers in any market Kindle has set up shop yet. It is, however, a nice marketting bullet for Adobe sales reps. 😉

fjtorres March 1, 2013 um 4:40 pm

Looks decent, especially at that price, but as the video shows: it’s no Paperwhite. 🙂
I agree that their best matchup is going to be Kobo.
Me, I’d be inclined to see what the Sony T3 brings to the table, but I can afford to wait.

Mike Cane March 1, 2013 um 6:03 pm

>>>Sony T3

Earth to fjtorres: Please come back, we miss you.

fjtorres March 1, 2013 um 6:08 pm

We’ve been there before.
Wanna bet which shows up first? The T3 or your Archos Dream-tab? 😀

Mike Cane March 1, 2013 um 9:18 pm

The 80 Titanium is already on sale in the UK, so one is actually out. Reviews have been surprisingly good. Unfortunately, today I found a tweet where an 80 owner had it die within the first week of using it! I was afraid of that…

It’s too late for Sony to do anything. And there is no reason for a T3. They’ve had two shots to get Android right — and blew them both.

Ingo Lembcke March 2, 2013 um 2:27 pm

How about a Kindle Paperwhite 2 ?
(With Android 4.x pretty please!!!)
Come August 2013 for the next Sony announcement.
I am not holding my breath, but maybe it is the right time then for my next reader, be it Tolino, Sony, Kindle or whatever.
Tests from normal users will show how the Tolino compares to the other readers.

fjtorres March 2, 2013 um 3:01 pm

That "delusional" I’m not. 🙂
Besides, I can get Coolreader onto the current KPW so if I was in the market for eink today that would probably suffice.

Protogonus March 1, 2013 um 11:23 pm

Can one browse the web with it or not? My Kindle 3 does an adequate job accessing e-mail and browsing news sites, plus downloading entire non-paginated web pages for reading later, with an added advantage (using “article mode”) of dumping all the advertising on any page and including just the text itself in readable-size typeface. It also saves web page URLs for access later at any time. Kindle called it “experimental” but it has always been adequate for web access. Will not play videos, though (big deal!). The unit’s 5-way controller works just like an external mouse accessing new URLs on a page except it won’t open multiple pages.

Protogonus March 1, 2013 um 11:26 pm

Forgot to mention my Kindle 3 web browser also permits web mail access and sending simple e-mails without forced paragraphing (it has no “return-enter” key). Like the new Tolino, one has to charge it maybe once a week even using it an hour a day for web browsing/reading.

Protogonus March 1, 2013 um 11:28 pm

All these Kindle 3 web features are on top of the reader’s primary facility of 6 GB storage for up to 3,000 books and regular Wi-Fi instant downloading of any Kindle store book purchase.

Xendula March 2, 2013 um 8:31 pm

Does it have a cursor? That is one flaw of the Odyssey Frontlight HD that Thalia is currently selling – great to have a browser, but not if it is missing the most basic functionality.
Trying to browse to library websites with the Odysseys was a very bad experience versus the Kindle.

fjtorres March 2, 2013 um 7:03 am

Hmm, you have 3 booksellers but only one ebookstore.
So there is no differentiation, no competition.
Same books, same prices; it’s all about brand loyalty.
It could work… for a while.
But it looks like a 5-way Nook play and we’ve seen how that only goes so far.
They have work to do and, depending on how much market there is in Germany for "global english" books they may not have much time to do it in.
As the price fix conspiracy in the US proved, pricing is the *least* important of Amazon’s competitive tools.

Nate Hoffelder March 2, 2013 um 7:39 am

5 ebookstores. Bertelsmann and DT also have ebookstores and all 5 are using the one platform.

BTW, Bertelsmann is a media retailer in Germany.

fjtorres March 2, 2013 um 8:57 am

Five branded front ends.
(Like the Borders-fronted Kobo ebookstore in the US.)

Thing is, they’re using ADEPT DRM, right?
And germany is a no-discounting-allowed country.
The only advantage to multiple front-ends to the same backend system is reduced costs; it doesn’t offer anything extra to *consumers*.

And the on-the-ground reports in the Passive Voice comments make it sound like the bookstore will not be doing anything on the small-pub/self-pub side.

Cora said:
"As for what this means for indies, so far Thalia, Weltbild, Hugendubel, Club Bertelsmann and the Telekom’s PagePlace are far less indie friendly than Amazon. XinXii distributes to PagePlace, Weltbild and Hugendubel – provided you have an ISBN – while getting into Thalia is very difficult for indies. Club Bertelsmann is pretty much impossible due to its direct Big Five ties. And at least from Thalia, I have had the response that they have no plans to implement something like KDP or PubIt."

So it’s going to be focused primarily on big publisher books and "bestsellers".
A generic catalog at generic prices running on (apparently) decent but generic hardware and software. I just don’t see differentiation or value add in five brands pointing to the same store.
Five brands or one, it’s still just one ebookstore.

As Sun’s Scott McNeally said when HP bought Apollo back in the 90’s; "All it means is I only have one competitor to worry about instead of two."

Tolino looks to be all about customer loyalty and getting their B&M customers into *their* ebookstore. Other than the co-op aspect they’re not doing anything other B&M chains elsewhere haven’t done before.

I expect Kobo will be the biggest beneficiary if the Shine is in fact ADEPT capable. And if the thing is hackable android, we all know what the first two apps to go on it will be, right?

Nate Hoffelder March 2, 2013 um 9:16 am

Yes, I didn’t even see any of the behind the scenes details as being worth a mention. Aside from the minor detail about the shift in platform there really wasn’t that much that was noteworthy.
But I wish I had noticed the thing about self-pub. That alone is going to keep Tolino from being a kindle-killer.

fjtorres March 2, 2013 um 4:15 pm

I see an interesting experiment taking shape.
I’m not sure what the german eading market is like–it might be solely litfic and cultural artifacts and totally price-insensitive–but unless things are very different from other markets, I suspect that whatever market exists for genre recreational reading is going to be singularly vulnerable to KDP and Kobo’s Writing Life titles.
We may see the ebook equivalent of a virgin field epidemic, with vendors used to a protected market with relatively high prices and no discounting confronting ready availability of ebooks that are inherently cheap, discounting or not.
And then there is the prospect of Tolino buyers bypassing the hardware’s sponsors in favor of Kobo ebooks.
A nice test of the value of interoperability, no? 😉

Ingo Lembcke March 2, 2013 um 2:19 pm

One thing about the German Bookmarket: the price for a book in German is fixed and set, a new book costs the same in every shop. Same goes for ebooks. And as with english ebooks the ebooks costs only slightly less than the cheapest print-version (or even the same). A deadwood book (paper) can be sold with a different price if it is damaged or used.
So there is not really much, that Thalia can do to make a difference to Hugendubel, Barnes & Noble or Amazon.

The main difference to Amazon is that you have a Thalia-Shop or a few in every major town, but a big one here in my home-town (Hamburg, a big city) was just announced to be closing. I am lucky in that I shop sometimes at a place where there is a Thalia-Shop, so I will see the reader in a few weeks, then they get them.
As in my family they bought one of the Oyos (1st gen), they have been burned already and are somewhat weary, but the service in the shop is quite good imho and a serious advantage to Amazon, that you can take the reader-hardware have it explained, buy books in the shop or leaving it there for a firmware-update etc . I know some people depend on that, and the service sounds (to me) better than Barnes&Noble.

I still wonder why B&N did not move faster to Germany, they where supposed to open shop in Berlin, but so far it is nowhere to be seen, imho. They could have offered a partnership to Thalia (or was that a rumor). But now?

Xendula March 2, 2013 um 8:22 pm

German booksellers woke up too late. The advantage they will have over the Kindle is in-store availability at Thalia, Hugendubel and Weltbild, who already sell books, and who already sell their own sub-optimal ereaders (OK, Thalia sells the Bookeen Frontlight HD and it was selling like hotcakes around Christmas) . This is also a disadvantage, since customers who bought their horrid readers in the past may not trust them this time around.

They use ADE, and 5 different bookstores, meaning also 5 different apps for your phones and tablets, that will all have to be registered with ADE!! This will HAVE to lead to user frustration when they find out they ran out of registration slots and will have to deal with Adobe. Oh, and have you seen how very, very bad the apps are? They can’t compete with Amazon and Kobo in that space.

clarkKent March 3, 2013 um 10:07 am

Sorry folks, you got it all wrong. Amazon has a horrible reputation in Germany due to exploitation of labor, low wages, terrible work conditions in their supply centers. Thousands of Germans have cancelled their amazon accounts in protest. Many disenchanted customers are moving back to traditional retail channels (same goes for Apple in Germany, by the way).

Nate Hoffelder March 3, 2013 um 12:07 pm

Amazon has a similar bad reputation here in the US and they’re still doing a brisk business.

And I’m not sure that Amazon’s misdeeds should matter that much to Tolino. If their success depends on the competition screwing up then god help them.

Xendula March 3, 2013 um 2:04 pm

None of my friends and family have cancelled their accounts with Amazon, and they continue to love Amazon for the ease of returns ad great customer service, so I wonder how many accounts were really affected by the latest reports.

fjtorres March 3, 2013 um 4:07 pm

I don’t doubt that thousands are offended and very publicly announcing their intent to boycott.
But, last I looked, there are 82 million people in Germany and human nature being what it is, the vast majority will quickly forget principle in the face of a good bargain.
Give it a month or two.

Teresa Reinhardt March 16, 2013 um 4:21 pm

Or give it a few years – remember what happened to Walmart in Germany?

Ingo Lembcke March 31, 2013 um 2:22 pm

And millions of satisfied customers ignore the bad press. I saw the documentation and it was just as bad as other German TV, some truth, some Nazi-Hyperbole, the few facts buried inside.
For me I saw people who should be glad to get a job, but where not, ok, some surveillance from a right-wing-security-outfit, that was under Amazons umbrella, but they did not know about it, so are not to blame, imho.

And Apple? Their retail shops are full every time I go there.
I cannot say that people as whole are boycotting them.

In fact I could not buy most of my electronic gear, would I not willingly support the Chinese Kindergartens where they are built …

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Bart March 25, 2013 um 3:45 am

I tried the Tolino last Saturday at Thalia and I say it sucks bigtime.
The screen is irresponsive and switching pages takes 2 seconds.
Compare that to a Kindle 4, which costs 20 Euros less (I don’t care about touchscreen or buttons). The Bookeen is a bit more expensive, but at least can be taken seriously when it comes to speed. So: Bookeen or Kindle Paperwhite, that is the question.

Ingo Lembcke March 31, 2013 um 1:53 pm

I just bought the Kindle Paperwhite, as hat a promo. Not to repeat myself a link to my other comment:
So far one other thing Amazon has done right: every Kindle and every Reader-Software has an email-adress you can send your own documents to. Sure, Amazon will know and get what you read. But once you set it up it is a great way to get RSS/News with Calibre. Does any of the other readers offer this, imho not?!

fjtorres March 31, 2013 um 3:32 pm

Unique email addresses for each device is a feature only available in Kindles.
Some non-amazon ebookstores (BAENEBOOKS.COM that I know of) will sell you Kindle-compatible ebooks and use the device email address to deliver their books to your Kindle’s cloud storage.
There are also several browser (and OS) plug-ins that will let you collect web article clippings (and documents) and format&email them to your Kindle. It is a very useful feature.

andrea April 3, 2013 um 7:19 am

I used it for 2 days and I was really enjoying it (even though turning pages takes longer sometimes), but while I was reading this morning it suddenly blacked out and there’s no way for me to switch it on. Charging battery doesn’t work and my comp.doesn’t recognize it anymore.
What is wrong?!?!

Nate Hoffelder April 3, 2013 um 7:34 am

It probably just needs to be reset. Hold down the power button for 30 seconds to a minute. That will either turn the Shine all the way off or restart it.

FangYi December 13, 2013 um 6:10 am

I’ve had the same problem, and even doing what you, Nate,said, it’s impossible to switch it on again! =(
I also tryed the reset bottom… =(

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[email protected] September 19, 2015 um 2:23 pm

And two years on almost half of all ebook sales in Germany are on the Tolino platform, with Amazon a distant second.

Nate Hoffelder September 19, 2015 um 2:25 pm


Victory through consolidation isn’t a victory. It just means more individual retailers are standing in one group.

limey May 24, 2016 um 10:02 am

Its Deutsche, not Deutche. My god, is this so hard?

Nate Hoffelder May 24, 2016 um 10:57 am

Yes. German spelling is so arcane it makes English look phonetic.

Don’t blame me; I’m not the one who chooses new German words by letting a cat walk across a keyboard.

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