Walmart targets Amazon's Kindle empire by selling Rakuten's Kobo ereaders

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Second, in the U.S., Walmart will be the exclusive mass retail partner for Rakuten's Kobo e-book and audiobook brand, offering Kobo's almost six million titles later this year, according to a blog post.

U.S. retail giant Walmart and Japanese internet titan Rakuten unveiled a strategic partnership which will include collaboration on digital books in the United States and grocery delivery in Japan.

All eBook content will be accessible through a Walmart/Kobo co-branded app available on all iOS and Android devices, a desktop app and Kobo e-Readers, which will also be sold at Walmart later this year. First, we'll launch an online grocery delivery joint venture in Japan and, second, we're adding an entirely new category to our USA assortment - eBooks and audiobooks, powered by Rakuten's digital book business, Kobo.

Seiyu is a Walmart-owned supermarket chain in Japan which operates a grocery delivery service through local stores. The service, with a planned launch in the latter half of this year, will allow customers to place orders on Rakuten's online marketplace.

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"Rakuten is a strong ecommerce business and we're excited to collaborate with the top online shopping destination in Japan", noted Walmart president and CEO Doug McMillon in a press release. The move is also a new salvo in its ongoing competition with Amazon, which thanks to its market-leading Kindle, commands about 83% of the US e-books market, according to estimates. Under pressure from Amazon, Rakuten's e-commerce profits are stalling despite growing revenue, prompting it to search for new businesses.

"As global leaders in e-commerce and offline shopping, Rakuten and Walmart are uniquely positioned to empower our customers around the world with innovative services", said Rakuten's CEO Hiroshi Mikitani.

Both Walmart and Rakuten also said they will open a warehouse to service these orders in addition to using Seiyu stores. "This informs the software and devices we create, the books and authors we promote, and also the partnerships we build". The joint venture will include the creation of a fulfillment center dedicated to grocery delivery as well as equipping Seiyu stores to make deliveries. Here in the United States, on the other hand, Walmart will leverage Kobo, Rakuten's digital book arm, to offer ebooks and audiobooks to its customers.

The worldwide businesses of Rakuten include the US and Europe. "I'm not sure how Kobo will fare in the U.S.", Sato said. In 2010, it acquired California-based Buy.com and rebranded it as Rakuten.com.

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