Kobo owner Rakuten retreats from UK

rakutenuk1Multinational conglomerate Rakuten, which owns the Kobo ebook operation, is shutting its marketplace website in the UK which sells print books as well as a range of other products.

The marketplace was rebranded as Rakuten.co.uk in October 2014 following the firm’s £25m takeover of the Play.com ecommerce website in 2011.

Kobo in the UK is unaffected by the Rakuten move at present. Kobo has a small share of the UK ebook market which is overwhelmingly dominated by Amazon. Nook shut down its ebook operation in the UK in March this year, switching customers to supermarket Sainsbury’s ebook store.

The UK is very much an Amazon country in terms of print books, ebooks and almost everything else to do with ecommerce and Rakuten obviously realised it might have more success in European countries that have resisted Amazon, such as France and Germany. The company says it believes its businesses in France and Germany ‘have the scale and potential for sustainable growth’.

The UK marketplace will shut down at the end of August.

At the time it launched the UK marketplace in October 2014, Rakuten said it would have a direct focus on empowering more independent retailers to sell online in the UK. The marketplace looked to cover a broad range of products and customers could access ebooks from Kobo through a single account.

It aimed to offer a competitive deal for retailers with rolling monthly contracts, competitive commission rates and low subscription fees but ultimately couldn’t compete with the Amazon juggernaut.

Nook shuts up shop in the UK