Following my story yesterday about the Canadian ebook store Shortcovers and its change of name to Kobo, it turns out there was another reason for the change. Kobo now has several new investors and one of them, the REDgroup will be bringing this fine service to Australia and New Zealand by May 2010.

The REDgroup owns Whitcoulls, Angus and Roberston and Borders in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore giving it a similar dominant position in this part of the world that Shortcovers’ owner Indigo Books has in the Canadian market. The service will offer 200,000 paid ebooks (30,000 expected in the downunder version) plus more than a million free ebooks.

Following the spin-off and new investment, Indigo’s share of the venture will be 58%. Its new partners are REDgroup, Borders Inc and Hong Kong conglomerate Cheung Kong whose subsidiaries include Hutchison Whampoa. Among its other areas, Hutchison is a major telecommunications provider.

Shortcovers/Kobo is an impressive platform, now complemented by an impressive line-up of partners. One of them, Borders, has just announced that it plans to develop its own ebook reader for the service though the service will maintain its position as a device-agnostic platform supporting many mobile devices, a definite strength.

The plan to launch an ebook store (or stores) in Australia and New Zealand will certainly add some sizzle to the REDgroup as it toys with a possible public listing and exit for its private equity owner, Pacific Equity Partners.

It’s very good news for the nascent digital publishing market downuder as the possibility of high profile retail channels opens up for local digital content. Given the Kindle’s arrival in Australia, and its (we presume) imminent arrival in New Zealand, consumers will be offered some enticing options.

In the press release, REDgroup retail group managing director David Fenlon said:

“… we’ll soon be able to offer our customers a broad selection of eBooks and other content for download via our websites. In particular, I’m pleased that we’ll be in a position to make local content available by working with Australian and New Zealand publishers and authors to enhance the Kobo range … Kobo’s content will be accessible from eReaders, iPhones, Blackberrys, Palm Pres, Androids and PCs, making the products very versatile.

It’s timely for another reason. It’s looking increasingly likely that CES 2010 (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas on January 7-10 will see a number of launches that will start to see more digital reading-friendly gadgets arriving to tempt consumers.

Welcome to 2010, another Year of the Ebook.

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6 Responses to Whitcoulls, Borders, A&R to launch ebook store by May 2010

  1. Shelley says:

    Given the number of times the dreaded ‘geographical restrictions’ curse has hit me this year I will be watching this space with avid interest.

    30, 000 eBooks, however, does not seem to be a particularly large number of eBooks to be made available for the downunder version! As someone who has been buying eBooks for nearly 3 years from a variety of sites (Fictionwise, Books on Board etc) I am more than happy to purchase eBooks from a NZ/Australian based site but only if they get their pricing right!

    I’m also watching with keen interest as to the various devices that may soon be appearing – Apple tablet, Nook from Barnes and Noble, ASUS tablet etc. Amazon’s Kindle is one device I have absolutely no interest in. I have eBooks in a variety of formats and will be closely looking at any device that will enable me to read all of my eBooks on one device.

  2. [...] ← Google Books – here’s the Court’s official summary of amendments Whitcoulls, Borders, A&R to launch ebook store by May 2010 [...]

  3. Mike says:

    Seriously, ebook readers with backlit LCDs are as easy to read as e-ink readers and the battery life is only as good as a laptop.

    While it’s nice to port ebook readers to Apples iPhone, iTouch and iPad the reading experience is no better (if not worse) than reading a book on a laptop or computer monitor. Now tell me who can spend hours reading for pleasure on a computer screen – or am I just getting old??

    e-ink readers have a contrast close to paper books, which typically makes them easier to read for longer periods. Then there is the battery life – well only if laptops could!!

  4. Ken says:

    I quite liked the press release at http://www.whitcolls.co.nz although I think they have gone a bit far! This wont change the world

  5. [...] store. It’s the fruit of an investment by Whitcoulls’ parent, the Red Group, which late last year took a stake in Canadian ebook operation Kobo [...]

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