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February 07, 2014

Sony Gives up on e-Readers in U.S., Canadian Markets with Customers Heading to Kobo Devices

Sony appears to be largely throwing in the towel on its e-book business – with current users in the United States and Canada being sent to Kobo.

Sony's Reader Store will close in late March – likely on March 20, according to news reports.  Kobo will then offer Sony's Reader and Xperia tablet and smartphone users access to more than 4 million eBooks, magazines and newspapers, novels and content for children – via its eBookstore. Kobo has some 18 million current readers found in 190 countries.

"Kobo is the ideal solution for our customers and will deliver a robust and comprehensive user experience. Like Sony, they are committed to those most passionate about reading and share our vision to use open formats so people can easily read anytime and anywhere," Ken Orii, vice president of Digital Reading Business Division, at Sony Electronics, said in a statement. "Our customers can be assured that they will have a seamless transition to the Kobo ecosystem and will be able to continue to access and read the titles they love from Sony devices."

Financial details on the deal were not released.

The Sony Reader store was found in the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia. But Sony was becoming increasing less competitive in the sector, as Good e-Reader reported recently how Sony has lost market share in “key markets” from double digit figures to single digits. It was easier for Sony to get out of the business than invest the needed resources in an effort to become more competitive. Kobo makes a good partner for Sony as it tries to leave gracefully.

"With a shared philosophy to deliver the best reading experience across platforms and with the best content available, Kobo and Sony will reach more people than ever before," Takahito Aiki, CEO at Kobo, added in the statement. "Together, millions of customers across the US and Canada will find their next great read at their fingertips – any time, any place, and on any device."

In addition, the e-book reader market may not be as popular as in the past, given the wide selection of alternative devices users can deploy, news reports add.

Soon, the Kobo app for the Android operating system will be pre-loaded on select Sony Xperia smartphones and tablets.

Kobo, which has its headquarters in Toronto and is owned by Tokyo-based Rakuten, formerly was considered a rival to Sony in the sector. But many tech sector observers were not surprised to this latest move by Sony. “For Sony fans, this announcement of a withdrawal from the e-reader market was not a matter of if, but when,” according to a report from NBC News.

Kobo – along with the better-known eBook devices from Amazon and Barnes & Noble – are popular. Kobo is found more frequently in Europe and some other regions.

In addition, Sony told Good e-Reader that, “With few exceptions, eBooks customers have purchased from Reader Store will transfer to Kobo. Their magazines and newspapers will not; however, they will have access to the most popular fashion, pop culture, health, and sports magazines at Most of Reader Store’s eBook catalog is currently available in the Kobo Store, so the good news is that the majority of customers’ eBooks will transfer over. They can re-download all their previously purchased Reader Store eBooks from the Reader Store and store on their Reader or other registered devices. If customers transfer their library to Kobo, they will receive detailed information on which titles did or did not transfer, so they can take the appropriate action.”

Meanwhile, outside of North America Sony’s European Reader Store and other markets will stay in place for the “near future,” Good e-Reader said.

Edited by Cassandra Tucker

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