About six months ago, I was talking to a friend who knows about these things, and I mentioned that Tesco (the UK’s leading supermarket chain, and the world’s third-largest retailer) could be doing more in the ebook market. She said “watch this space”, and now I think we’re starting to see the first signs of Tesco’s plans coming to fruition. The company has purchased ebook retail firm Mobcast for around £4.5m ($7.2m), and now looks set to leverage its position as one of the UK’s biggest booksellers into a new ebook sales platform.
Mobcast provides a digital retail platform that currently has a catalogue of around 130,000 titles, and owns ebookstore Uncuva. While Mobcast isn’t exactly a big name in ebooks, the company has the experience and technology to give Tesco a really strong ebook retail platform, and Tesco has the resources to scale this operation up very quickly. Tesco’s dominance in the UK is such that whereas other companies might have sought to sign up with Mobcast, Tesco simply bought the company. The press release anouncing the deal makes it very clear that Tesco’s purchase is going to lead to some big moves.
It remains to be seen whether Tesco also launches its own e-reader. This was definitely an option earlier in the year, but I’m not sure how things might have changed over the summer. The company sells various ereaders already. The Mobcast deal suggests Tesco is focusing instead on content: Mobcast uses a cloud-based system to allow consumers to access content on a variety of devices. Tesco is extremely powerful in the UK and is arguably one of the few companies that could make Amazon break a sweat. In particular, Tesco has been a world-leader when it comes to tracking consumer psychology and offering integrated services.