Sainsbury’s shuts down its ebook service and sends readers off to Kobo as ex-Nookers face second transfer in six months

UK supermarket Sainsbury’s is shutting down its ebook service and Kobo, as usual, is the ebook retailer taking in the exodus of readers from another failed British supermarket foray into ebooks.

It also means that former members of Nook in the UK will be transferred for the second time within six months. This is because Nook shut down its UK operation in spring this year and shunted off its members to Sainsbury’s rather than offering them to rival Kobo.

In 2015, Tesco supermarket closed its ebook operation in the UK and passed its customers on to Kobo, which, with a supermarket passing on customers to a specialist ebook retailer, was the opposite of what happened with the Nook move and was obviously a far better option for customers.

This year has also seen UK bookstore chain Waterstones pull out of its ebook operation and it had the good sense to transfer customers over to Kobo.

The ebook retailer exodus has not been confined to the UK as, in late 2015, Flipkart quit the India ebook market, switching customers to Kobo.

Kobo has been the ‘winner’ in the rush for the ebook exit and also took over Sony ebook customers in 2014, but Amazon still basically owns the UK ebook market with a massive 90% share on most estimates.

Sainsbury’s says, “We’re contacting customers to let them know what options are available to them, including ebook customers who can migrate their libraries across to a new platform.”

Those options appear to be:

  • Transfer your ebooks to Kobo, or
  • Lose your ebooks.[clear-line]

It is, of course, impossible to transfer ebooks from Sainsbury’s directly to Amazon’s Kindle service due to the fact that, among other things, Sainsbury’s (and Kobo and Nook, etc) use the epub format while Amazon uses the mobi format.

Some readers may still opt to move over to Amazon and buy one of the new cheap Kindle tablets. It would be possible, if painstaking, to convert their downloaded epub ebooks to mobi using software such as Calibre and upload them to their new Kindle.

Kobo is, however, a stalwart in the UK ebook market and I would expect most Sainsbury’s members to make the switch there.

It’s worth noting though that Kobo’s parent company — the giant multinational Rakuten — shut down its print book online marketplace in the UK in August this year and moved its European focus to France and Germany where Amazon has not taken so much of a grip on the market.

Kobo CEO Michael Tamblyn says, “Both companies will ensure Sainsbury’s customers have a seamless transfer of the current digital libraries of books they’ve purchased, and will have the ability to continue buying ebooks from the millions of titles available on”

Sainsbury’s will be sending customers an email by October 25 with a link and instructions on how to transfer their libraries to Kobo. The Sainsbury’s accounts will be closed on November 30 and all ebooks left there will then be lost. The firm emphasises it will not be issuing any refunds for ebook purchases. If you really want to continue buying ebooks at Sainsbury’s, then you can do so until September 30.

The Sainsbury’s ebook operation emerged out of the remnants of the Anobii ebook venture, which was set up by members of the Big 5 publishers, including Penguin and Harper, and music and video chain HMV. Sainsbury’s bought HMV’s interest for just £1. There is still an website running as a ‘book discovery’ site.

Nook shuts up shop in UK and switches customers to supermarket

Waterstones exits ebooks and switches customers to Kobo

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