Walmart’s quest for ecommerce dominance continues with the arrival of Walmart eBooks, the company’s newest strategy to compete with Amazon.
Walmart eBooks by Rakuten Kobo is part of the company’s broader partnership with the Japanese ecommerce company. With Walmart eBooks, consumers will be able to choose from 6 million titles in Kobo’s library, and they will be able to join a new audiobook subscription service for $9.99. (Amazon’s Audible subscription is currently $14.95 a month.)
“It will be tough to compete with Amazon here but maybe they’ll get some exclusives or they’ll be able to bundle it with a loyalty program and drive some adoption,” said Sucharita Kodali, a retail analyst at Forrester Research. “I think it’s great for customers and it should be great for writers and publishers.”
Customers will also be able to buy digital copies of 40 titles in 3,500 Walmart stores using a “digital book card” and can read them either on a Walmart ebooks app available on iOS and Android or on a Kobo ereader. As part of the partnership and launch, Walmart will also sell the Kobo Aura ereader in stores this week and offer more variety of Kobo ereaders online.
Walmart’s foray into the ebook market is a challenging one, since according to a 2017 report from AuthorEarnings, Amazon has an 83 percent market share in ebooks. It’s also yet another move from Walmart to compete with the ecommerce giant; the company has announced numerous initiatives this year alone, including a website redesign, a new shopping service called Jetblack, a $16 billion investment in Flipkart and expanded grocery delivery in several states in addition to a new rumored subscription streaming service.
“They will need to put lots of marketing behind it to really drive success though,” Kodali said. “Much of Amazon’s ebook success has actually been it’s self-publishing and Kindle direct-publishing platform of lots of microauthors.”
Customers shopping online will now see a new option to purchase a titles in ebook or audiobook format. For now, Walmart is also offering first-time customers $10 off their first purchase of an ebook or audiobook, and anyone who signs up for the audiobook subscription will receive a 30-day free trial.
Walmart and Rakuten announced their partnership in January. In addition to ebooks, the partnership includes a grocery-delivery service in Japan called “Rakuten Seiyu Netsuper.”
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