The Kobo Touch has arrived in Japan, with parent company Rakuten claiming that the device has outsold all other products on its website – including water! Retailing for ￥7,980 including tax (about $100), the device looks like it could invigorate the hitherto weak Japanese ebook market.
Since Rakuten purchased Kobo at the end of 2011, a Japanese launch has been inevitable. On this occasion, Kobo has beaten Amazon to market, with the latter expected to launch its own Japanese effort later in 2012. But Kobo has the benefit of Rakuten’s backing; its parent company is one of the world’s largest internet-focused companies, on the same level as the likes of Google and Amazon.
Authors who are signed up to the Kobo distribution channel via Smashwords should find that their books automatically appear in the new Japanese ebooks stores operated by Kobo and Rakuten. The market for English-language ebooks is very much untested in Japan, but the country could provide some significant sources of revenue if the Kobo Touch proves to be a hit.
If Kobo and Rakuten can crack the Japanese ebook market, they’ll also be perfectly positioned for the upcoming development of markets in countries such as India and China, where ebooks have traditionally struggled. It’s too early to say that Kobo has scored a hit in Japan, but the company is clearly going to provide some stiff opposition to the likes of Amazon.