WH Smith one of the leading book sellers in the United Kingdom struck a deal with Canadian based Kobo today. The agreement was to convert their existing ebookstore to Kobo and sell their line of e-readers in over 750 different retail locations.
Starting October 17th over 750 WH Smith stores in the UK and Ireland will begin selling the Kobo Touch and Kobo WIFI e-readers. The company is revamping their ebook business and taking the path of least resistance and dealing with a 3rd party. This was a smart move because they can now focus more on internal sales then try and compete in the increasingly competitive landscape of digital book sales. WH are also phasing out their iPad ebook store and are mulling the prospect of dealing with the Canadian based company on that too. Ironically the WH Smith app is not compliant with Apples new rules for selling content directly through the app and has not been shut down.
WH Smith was the perfect company and ally for Kobo to entrench themselves in one of the strongest markets in Europe. Originally forming in 1792 in London and famously striking it big during the railway boom. The company continues to operate small locations near the Tube and other mass transit hubs. The company is not just limited to the United Kingdom, but branched out into Canada in the 1950’s. It was sold in 1989 to Canadian owners and all existing locations were known as Smithbooks. Later the company merged with Coles, forming Chapters!
If you track the business side of things, Chapters/Indigo has been the largest singular shareholder in Kobo from the very beginning. They constantly supply monetary funds via yearly investment rounds, giving Kobo a constant source of capital for Research and Development and to manufacture new devices. Chapters has been pivotal to their success and originally how Kobo begun to market its own line of e-readers to gain financial traction.
The deal struck with WH Smith by way of Chapters, brings the company full circle to its roots and continues the companies ambitions to sell e-readers and launch ebook stores all over Europe. They currently have stores in the UK, Germany and France. There is plans to open more in the Netherlands and Spain by the end of the year.