Rakuten Acquires Digital Book Company Kobo

1 min read
November 10, 2011

Rakuten Ichiba recently announce the acquisition of Kobo, a Canada-based ebook vendor, with a full cash 100% acquisition. This is the first time a Japanese-based marketplace company buy a content company. It’s been a while since Rakuten enables merchant to sell stuff using their platform, this time around Rakuten decided to sell their own things on their own platform. Kobo itself sells ebooks online and they also have an Android-based e-reader product called Kobo Vox which (somewhat) competing with Amazon Kindle.

Rakuten also has presence in Indonesia and I sincerely hope that Rakuten can bring Kobo to Indonesian market. Why am I so excited about this? So far it seems easy to buy Kobo’s digital products compared to other competitors especially for Indonesian market. Kobo also supports Paypal which makes it easier for Indonesian early adopter market to buys their products. Another thing that makes Kobo suitable for Indonesian market is their multiplatform support – Blackberry, iOS and Android – pushing their chances even further to expand in Indonesia.

So what can they do in Indonesia? First, they could open their iOS embeded market in Indonesian iTunes store. The iOS market in Indonesia might not be as huge but I’m convinced that iPad is making its way to be the dominant tablet device in the market, making the way for digital culture to grow in Indonesia. I use Kobo on my iOS device and it turned out they don’t open the market for Indonesian users.

I was forced to buy the Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson ebook using my desktop computer and fortunately syncs automatically to my iPad. The similar experience doesn’t apply for Blackberry and Android users, they can immediately buy ebooks from their device. It might have something to do with Apple’s in-app purchase policy.

Second one is to open a “Newsstand” feature. Using Kobo, users should be able to buy local affiliated newspapers and magazines. Even though this feature is already available in Newsstand or Zinio, I think Kobo still have a chance to bring the competition to a local scale supported by the Paypal payment method and its smooth-integration with other payment methods available for each platform.

The third thing for Kobo is to partner with local publisher to submit newspapers and magazing to port their current format to be compatible with Kobo. This will put Kobo in a direct competition with Scoop and Wayang Force, although I personally think that Kobo’s navigation and bookmarking system is way better. Of course they will need Rakuten’s help on this one.

Some people will argue about the comfort of reading digital book vs physical books. Nevertheless, with the spirit of Go Green I am supporting the effort to reduce printed books and encourage the use of digital books instead. While Amazon still underestimate the power of Indonesian market, Kobo is left with a huge market potential waiting to be serviced.

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