WHSmith Gets in on the Digital Game
I noticed with great interest that bricks-and-mortar retailer WHSmith is looking to partner with Canadian firm Kobo to sell its own ebook reader:
Retail chain WH Smith made its first move into the electronic books market on Thursday by sealing a distribution deal with Canadian group Kobo.
Analysts have expressed concern about the impact of electronic books on physical book sales, but chief executive Kate Swann said the move, which will see Smiths sell electronic readers through its stores and website for the first time, would “complement” its traditional print books business.
Customers will have access to the largest ebook catalogue in the UK through the deal, with more than 2.2m titles and 1m free books, while Smiths will sell two versions of the Kobo ereader.
This makes total sense to me and is in many ways a long delayed proper foray into the digital, rather than simply selling physical goods online. Apple showed, via iTunes, that when you marry a technology platform and a customer service system you can make digital distribution really work. Amazon also saw the writing on the wall in the longer term for much of its books and print services and so has been taking strong steps via Kindle Fire, not to be led by the changes but to lead them. We’re also seeing the same with other part-digital/part-physical businesses; Gamestop in the US looking to create its own (Android powered) tablet and LoveFilm’s steady progress in moving from DVDs to digital.