Tesco will close its e-books service blinkbox Books at the end of February after talks with Waterstones to buy the platform broke down.
All 60 core staff who work on the blinkbox Books platform are now expected to enter a consultation period over their jobs and are likely to be made redundant.
Waterstones was in exclusive talks to but the e-book platform, but a satisfactory deal could not be reached, The Bookseller understands.
A spokesperson for Tesco said: “We have taken the decision to close our e-book service blinkbox Books. We’ve learnt a lot since launching the service and whilst we saw encouraging levels of take up, we believe that we can do more for our customers by focusing on our core business. The service will close by the end of February.” The spokesperson added: “Our focus now is on the colleagues affected and our customers.”
Tesco bought the e-book platform, then called Mobcast, for £4.5m from author Andy McNab and business partner Tony Lynch in September 2012 and rebranded it under the blinkbox name, to coincide with the film and movie streaming platform the supermarket had also bought in order to compete in the digital entertainment market.
Reports surfaced in October that Tesco had put all three arms of Blinkbox up for sale following a turbulent period at the retailer, with falling sales and profit and a probe by the Financial Conduct Authority to deal with.
Blinkbox movie streaming platform and Tesco Broadband were sold to TalkTalk for a reported £25m earlier in January and a week later reports surfaced that Australian company Guvera were in talks to buy Blinkbox music. Waterstones was also reported to be in exclusive talks to buy Blinkbox books, with James Daunt, the chain’s m.d, saying it currently sells e-books in a "very inefficient and poor manner" and that with the rising popularity of tablets, Waterstones needed a platform for e-book sales that works on all devices.
The retailer has not yet commented publicly on the reports it was looking to buy blinkbox books or that those talks have failed.
Tesco’s e-book platform went live in March last year, with managing director Gavin Sathianathan saying the platform launch was “just the beginning”, with the service to “evolve” in the coming months.
Publishers welcomed its launch at the time as providing diversity in the digital marketplace to rival Amazon’s near 90% share of the e-book market.
Waterstone's could not be reached for comment.