New Kobo parent Rakuten has sold some 100,000 Rakuten Kobo Touch e-ink e-readers in Japan at ¥7,980 ($101) a pop, while its new in-country rival Amazon has yet to ship a single Kindle — but the sales haven’t come without their problems, according to a report in the Japan Times.
Users reported many software defects for the device, which shipped July 19, including issues setting up the application on a PC and problems logging in. Many users gave the e-reader 1-star reviews. The store also came under criticism for having significantly fewer books for sale than the 30,000 the company reportedly promised at launch.
Rakuten has apparently made its problems worse by hiding negative reviews of the device on its website and by failing to adhere to collection-growing schedules — all to the dismay of the company’s publishing partners, which are hesitant to invest in e-book conversion while the country’s nascent market develops. It could be a Catch-22 for Rakuten, which needs publishers to publish e-books to meet its goals while it needs to meet its goals to convince publishers to create e-books.
Rakuten might have been first to market with an e-ink device in Japan, but Amazon could win out in the end if the Kobo Touch and its bookstore aren’t able to meet consumer and publisher expectations, largely set by the company itself.
Kobo, a start-up launched by Canadian bricks-and-mortar bookseller Indigo, was acquired by Rakuten, known as the Amazon of Japan, late last year for $315 million.