On Wired’s Epicenter blog, Tim Carmody writes about why he thinks that the main global e-book competitor Amazon has to worry about is Kobo. He points out that while Amazon and Apple have been making highly visible splashes with their new hardware or e-publishing initiatives, Kobo has quietly been building support from a multinational network of bookseller partners, including major booksellers in England, Hong Kong, and France. And now its acquisition by Rakuten adds all of Rakuten’s previously-existing worldwide digital book and media operations to the Kobo brand.

“An e-book reader will ultimately not be only about selling books,” Rakuten’s Pierre Kosciusko-Morizet told the BBC in November. “It’s about potentially selling other digital goods, and it’s also about being in consumers’ homes with a hardware device.” A device like Kobo’s new Kindle Fire-like Android tablet, the Vox.

And Kobo Executive Vice President Todd Humphrey told Carmody that “to be perfectly candid, the only company we see as a competitor [in Japan] is Amazon.”

Carmody also points out that Kobo has also been quicker than Amazon about getting its devices out into international markets—and that Barnes & Noble hasn’t even started building an international market yet.

It’s funny how quickly Kobo looks to be changing from “that also-ran who isn’t Amazon or B&N” to a major internationally competitive power. Though perhaps it’s really not really all that much of a change—it’s just that people are starting to pay attention more.

Correction: Changed Kobo VP’s name from Bradley to Humphrey, above.


  1. If B&N does not hurry with their international plans they will have lost the international market to their competitors.
    I love my Nook ereaders, but I wonder if B&N really knows what they are doing with their digital business. As there is not much room for growth in the US (because of Amazon) the international market is the only market they have left to really grow their business. If Amazon and Kobo can do this, why not B&N!

  2. I like Kobo and think they have EXCELLENT customer service. I have called them at night and someone is always there to help.

    I have had two Kobo devices and think they are great.

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