Sainsbury’s has bought a 64% stake in e-bookseller and social media site Anobii from HMV in a partnership that will “give Anobii the power to compete with Amazon in the UK".
The UK supermarket announced this morning (12th June) it had purchased a majority stake in Anobii, whose minority shareholders are publishers HarperCollins, Penguin and Random House, for £1, which shows the company’s “commitment to becoming a key player in the digital entertainment market” according to Mark Bennett, Sainsbury’s head of digital.
Matteo Berlucchi, Anobii c.e.o., said the deal, which was signed last night, would allow Anobii to fulfil the role it was created to do in the UK before the HMV Group sold Waterstones to Russian billionaire Alexander Mamut.
“Anobii was created to support the ecosystem in the UK,” Berlucchi told The Bookseller. “Amazon is very unhealthy for competition because it is so dominant in the market and the purpose of Anobii has always been to fill the gap, like Barnes & Noble do in the US with the Nook.
"Essentially for us this is putting back on track the plan that was derailed when Waterstones was removed from our structure.”
He said that because the deal was only signed last night, the “small print” between the two companies had not been finalised; he said Anobii would continue to run as a separate website, but may take on Sainsbury’s branding.
“There will be some synergies in places,” Berlucchi said. He added: “We needed a company with a big customer base who were buying a lot of books. Sainsbury’s was the best one which fit that description.”
He added that the companies did not have their own hardware “yet”, but said: “It is obviously something we are going to look at.”
Sainsbury’s said: “The investment in Anobii is a further step in Sainsbury's strategy to deliver digital services to support the growth of its online channel and commitment to multichannel retailing. The acquisition supports Sainsbury's drive into the growing online and digital entertainment market following the launch of Sainsbury's Entertainment in November 2010, the acquisition of online entertainment company Global Media Vault Ltd in October 2011 and the launch of its music download service earlier this year.”
Anobii says it currently has over 600,000 users worldwide, with a library of over 60,000 e-books.
Mark Bennett, Sainsbury's head of digital entertainment said that Anobii's use of social media was a “clear differentiator” from in the market. “This acquisition is a valuable addition to our digital portfolio and shows our commitment to becoming a key player in the digital entertainment market . . .
"We're excited about working together with the Anobii team and our fellow shareholders in supporting Anobii to become a leading retailer of e-books," he said.
A spokesman for Penguin said the company was "excited" by the Sainsbury-Anobii partnership.
"Anobii has built a unique and engaging platform during its initial phase, and we're excited that Sainbury's strong brand and retail expertise will contribute greatly to the next stage of the site's development," he said.