Walmart is teaming up with one of the world’s biggest e-commerce companies to take direct aim at Amazon (WMT)

Kobo

  • Walmart will start selling ereaders, ebooks, and audiobooks through a partnership with Rakuten, Japan’s biggest e-commerce company. 
  • The deal will give Walmart’s US customers access to Rakuten Kobo’s six million ebooks and audiobooks. 
  • Amazon currently commands 83% of the ebook market in the US.
  • In Japan, Walmart and Rakuten will launch a grocery delivery service.

Walmart is taking aim at Amazon’s Kindle business and diving into the business of selling ereaders, ebooks, and audiobooks through a partnership with Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten.

As part of the deal, Walmart will start selling Aura-branded ereaders made by Kobo, a division of Rakuten, in stores and online at Walmart.com. Kobo is one of Amazon Kindle’s biggest competitors. 

Walmart will also offer customers access to Kobo’s vast library of nearly six million titles from more than 30,000 publishers, Michael Tamblyn, CEO of Rakuten Kobo, told Business Insider. 

Customers will be able to access the ebooks and audiobooks through a co-branded Walmart-Kobo app that will be available on smartphones, desktop computers, and Kobo’s ereaders.  

“We’re really looking forward to growing our audience through this partnership,” Tamblyn said. 

The deal will give Walmart access to the massive ebook market, which is largely dominated by Amazon. Amazon is responsible for roughly 83% of all ebook sales in the US, according to a report by Author Earnings.  Kobo, by comparison, commands just 0.3% of the US ebook market.

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Kobo’s ereaders, which range in price from $ 119 to $ 279, are currently only available to US customers through the company’s website.

One of the company’s most popular ereaders, called the Aura One, is waterproof and has a slightly larger screen than its Kindle-branded counterpart, the Kindle Oasis. The Aura One also has a blue-light filter to help minimize the amount of blue light the screen emits. (Studies say that blue light disturbs sleep cycles).

Kobo

Rakuten executives and Walmart CEO Doug McMillon announced the new partnership at an event in Tokyo on Thursday. 

“The ebook and audiobook offering will be fully integrated into the Walmart online shopping experience,
and customers will be able to buy these versions as well as the physical book while shopping for their
favorite titles,” Walmart Chief Revenue Officer Scott Hilton wrote in a blog post on the partnership. “For example, anyone shopping for the latest best seller will be able to purchase the physical book shipped to home or to their local store, an eBook and/or an audiobook.”

Walmart and Rakuten to launch grocery delivery in Japan

In addition to bringing ebooks to Walmart customers in the US, the companies will also jointly launch a grocery delivery service in Japan. 

Beginning in the second half of the year, the service will offer groceries such as fresh produce; a “convenient lineup” of goods like cut vegetables, partially-prepared foods, and meal kits; and popular local gourmet products from merchants on the Rakuten Ichiba marketplace, Walmart said. 

The delivery service will be offered through Walmart’s Japanese subsidiary, Seiyu.

SEE ALSO: A Kroger-Alibaba deal could thwart Amazon’s Whole Foods ambitions

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