Rakuten to Sell New, Cheaper E-Readers as Amazon Enters

Rakuten Cuts E-Reader Price, Sells New Line as Amazon Enters
The Kobo Inc. Kobo Touch e-reader is displayed at a news conference in Tokyo. Photographer: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg

Rakuten Inc. is introducing new varieties of its Kobo e-reader and cutting prices on its existing version as Japan’s biggest Internet retailer fends off competition from Sony Corp. and Amazon.com Inc. at home.

Rakuten will start selling its Kobo Glo for night-time reading for 7,980 yen ($100) and the Kobo Mini for 6,980 yen in Japan, President Hiroshi Mikitani said at a press conference in Tokyo yesterday. The company is also cutting the price on its existing line called Kobo Touch by 13 percent to 6,980 yen.

Rakuten is planning the new lines as Amazon, the largest online retailer and e-book company in the world, enters the Japanese market. The Seattle-based company said last month that it will sell its Kindle Paperwhite for 8,480 yen in Japan.

“Kobo’s business is in the red right now. If they can’t expand sales, for example toward the end of the year shopping period, it’s possible that they will have too much inventory. So investors are worried about it,” said Hiroshi Naya, an analyst at Ichiyoshi Research Institute Inc.

The stock fell 3.7 percent to close at 687 yen today. The broader Topix index gained 1.2 percent.

Sony, which sells a product called Reader, in September cut the price of its cheapest model to 7,980 yen at its stores from the previous 9,980 yen. Rakuten in January bought Canadian e-book company Kobo Inc. to enter the e-reader business.

The Glo and Mini are already sold in international markets.

“We are launching new devices and they are evolving, so we want to offer a more affordable price,” Mikitani said, denying that Amazon’s plans had forced the price change.

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