February 7, 2014

Sony’s not going to bother with U.S. e-reader market, gets Kobo to sell books there instead


Sony ereaderThe Kobo news is here: on March 20, Sony is shutting down its reader store in the U.S. and Canada. The Kobo platform will take its place, and the Kobo app will be available on various Sony devices.

Debuting its e-Ink device very early, in 2006, Sony hasn’t released a new eReader in the U.S. since 2012. Last year, the company announced it had a new reader but wouldn’t bother putting it out in North America due to “the region’s market changes.”

The reading device enjoyed some popularity, but it seems the tablet is significantly more attractive to consumers. And there’s that pesky rule that people with disabilities have to be able to use those e-reading devices.

“Sony is withdrawing from the digital reading business in the United States,” Sony spokeswoman Maya Wasserman said. She didn’t add, “because you guys aren’t worth it.”

This news comes on the tail of Sony’s announcement that the company will let go of 5,000 employees by the end of the financial year. The PC division has been sold to private equity firm Japan Industrial Partners.

Sony is offering a window of time for their customers to transfer their current libraries (and any remaining store credit) over to Kobo’s platform. Easier said than done.

It is reasonably complicated to transfer Sony e-books to Kobo, and after the Sony e-book store shuts down, Reader users will have to wait until May to buy Kobo books directly from their devices. During this transition, Sony users will only be able to download books from Kobo to their computers, and then load them onto their devices via USB using a new version of the Reader software for Windows and OS X that Sony will release in late March.

Kobo got a pretty sick deal. Its app will be pre-installed on select Xperia devices, including Sony tablets and phones.


Kirsten Reach is an editor at Melville House.