Sainsbury’s is pulling out of the e-book market and closing its digital entertainment offer.
The Bookseller understands the digital entertainment team in the business, which also offers music and film downloads, were called into a meeting yesterday afternoon (20th September) and given the news the digital entertainment arm was closing in December. The company is now carrying out job consultations with 40 staff, looking to redeploy "where possible", it said.
In a press statement, the supermarket added: "Following a commercial review we have taken the strategic decision to close the Sainsbury’s Entertainment service. We know many customers valued this service and we regret to disappoint them. We’re now contacting these customers to let them know what options are available to them, including e-book customers who can migrate their libraries across to a new platform.”
The supermarket’s e-reading customers will have the option of transferring to rival retailer Kobo next month.
The move follows several other exits from the UK e-book retail market, which is dominated by Amazon, including Waterstones in May this year, Nook in March and before that Tesco’s blinkbox books in January 2015. Nook's UK customers had the option of transferring their accounts across to Sainsbury's when it shut down its UK operation earlier in the year, but now those readers will now have to transfer their accounts again to Kobo.
Amazon has an estimated 90% market share of the UK’s e-book market.
Sainsbury’s acquired a majority stake in the e-book platform, formerly called Anobii, from the HMV Group in 2012, for £1. At the time, publishers HarperCollins and Penguin Random House also owned a share in the platform, but Sainsbury’s bought the service outright in August 2014 with Tim Lennox, managing director of the Sainsbury’s Entertainment Online, saying at the time: “This is the logical next step in our commitment to growing our digital entertainment offer for customers across film, music and books in a way which complements and connects with our broader Sainsbury’s business.”
In February 2014, Sainsbury’s stopped selling physical books online to concentrate purely on an on demand digital offer, saying at the time it sees future online opportunities as lying solely in “digital products”.
Michael Tamblyn, president and c.e.o of Kobo, said: “Both companies will ensure Sainsbury’s customers have a seamless transfer of the current digital libraries of books they’ve purchased, and will have the ability to continue buying e-books from the millions of titles available on Kobo.com. Readers will be able to choose from the most popular bestsellers, literary works, comics, graphic novels, and kids’ content – enabling them to continue expanding their reading worlds with Kobo e-readers and apps.
“We look forward to welcoming Sainsbury’s customers to read with Kobo.”
Sainsbury’s will be sending its customers an email by 25th October with a unique link and instructions on how to easily transfer their libraries to Kobo, which will allow access to books previously purchased at the Sainsbury’s e-bookstore, as well as new purchases at Kobo.com. Customers wanting to retain their Sainsbury’s e-book libraries will need to transfer them to Kobo, as their accounts will automatically be closed on 1st December.