Jon Russell was Asia Editor for The Next Web from 2011 to 2014. Originally from the UK, he lives in Bangkok, Thailand. You can find him on T Jon Russell was Asia Editor for The Next Web from 2011 to 2014. Originally from the UK, he lives in Bangkok, Thailand. You can find him on Twitter, Angel List, LinkedIn.
Kobo, the Rakuten-owned hardware maker, has begun selling its range of e-readers online in the US and Canada after it announced that the devices, which include its flagship Kobo Touch, are available to buy direct from Kobo.com in the two countries.
Amazon has found great success bridging the tablet and e-reader spaces and, while pure e-reader player Barnes and Noble has struggled with its Nook range, Kobo appears to have found a sweet spot with its offerings.
At the end of 2012, the company reported that it had more than 12 million registered users worldwide and had doubled its annual sales, claiming to holds 20 percent of the global e-reader market. Today, its user numbers are up to 13 million, while Kobo says it is “on track to becoming a billion dollar company”.
Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten redesigned Kobo’s products after it bought the Vancouver headquartered company for $315 million in November 2011. The devices — which also include the Kobo Glo, Kobo Mini E Ink e-reader, and Kobo Arc 7″ Android tablet — were made available in the US in November 2012, having gone on sale in the UK, Canada and other markets one month prior.
Its customer base — which covers 190 countries — has already turned (as in, quite literally, turned) 1.3 billion pages during 10 million hours of reading during 2013 so far. Kobo says that its eBookstore now offers 3.2 million titles in 68 languages, appealing to a very global audience.
Making the e-readers available to buy online on its home turf in Canada and in the US, one of the world’s largest consumer markets, makes a lot of sense, but the company was roundly criticized for its botched launch in America late last year. The product launched in the UK and Canada, with no initial mention of the US leaving many consumers confused.
Things also didn’t go smoothly during the July 2012 launch in Japan either. Early releases were plagued with software issues and Rakuten even deleted negative reviews of its products. The company admitted its mistakes, but claimed that the early feedback was “not fully reflective of the service at launch time and was misinforming consumers”.
The Kobo range can be bought offline in North America via a number of retail partners, which include Best Buy, Toys’R’Us, Target, Walmart and Staples.
Image via rsnijders / Flickr
Get the TNW newsletter
Get the most important tech news in your inbox each week.