One of the original pioneers of the ebook business is beating a hasty retreat back to its stronghold and ceding all of its customers to a rival.
Sony will no longer be selling ebooks to customers in Europe and Australia. The company also pulled out of Canada and North America earlier this year. Kobo, the Canadian ebook upstart, which is now owned by Japanese online retailer Rakuten, will be selling Sony customers ebooks from now on. Sony has all but ended its ebook business, except in Japan, where it will continue, a Kobo spokesperson told me.
While Sony was an increasingly insignificant player on the international and domestic ebook scene, it was one of the originals. Sony launched its Reader in 2006, a year before Amazon launched the Kindle. Unlike the Kindle, however, the Sony PRS-500 never took off. Perhaps it was the name; since the Walkman and Discman, Sony hasn’t been great at coming up with catchy names for its devices and the PRS-500 doesn’t exactly scream “books!” or roll off the tongue. Or, perhaps it was because it didn’t have the key Kindle ingredient that makes that device magic: Whispersync, 3G connectivity for free nationwide so that Kindle users could download ebooks right to the reader no matter where they were.
The original Kindle sold out in five hours and while Amazon hasn’t released sales figures, it’s safe to say that millions have been sold. Meantime, Sony said in 2008 that it had sold 300,000 Reader devices. That’s a long time ago but my guess is that the Readers haven’t come close to the success of the Kindle.
Had they, perhaps we’d see Sony acquiring more readers rather than ceding them to rivals.