Walmart starts selling e-books/Kobo EBRs

Walmart starts selling e-books/Kobo EBRs

I guess Walmart decided to party like it’s 2009**. 😉

Walmart has just announced a major initiative to sell e-books (both online and in the stores) and Kobo EBRs (E-Book Readers):

press release

This is no timid toe-dipping…it’s a full-on cannonball into the e-book, EBR, and not insignificantly, audiobook markets.

The really good news is that, contrary to what you may read at some sites, the e-book market is thriving. Reports you might see about reduced or slowing sales of e-books are, I think, for the most part a data error rather than a trend. Tradpub (traditional publisher) e-book sales may no longer be growing super rapidly, but that may be because of the large percentage of sales being made by non-tradpubs and by subsers (subscription services) including Amazon’s own

Kindle Unlimited (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

My mentioning Amazon here is, of course, deliberate. That’s the obvious competition here…and while it might seem like Walmart might do this just to go after Amazon, that doesn’t make sense. This doesn’t seem like a likely loss leader (really, how many people are going to use Walmart for the first time because of e-books, or make an e-book purchase and then be inspired to buy tire irons?), so I think they think they are going to profit on this.

There are really three parts to this at this point:

  • EBRs: Walmart has already sold e-book readers (and Fire tablets, for that matter)…this doesn’t seem revolutionary enough to justify a big promotional push
  • E-books: they are doing an interesting thing here with promoting purchasing giftcards in the store…otherwise, this is Kobo’s offerings. It’s really more of co-branding…or should that be Ko-branding? 😉 It wouldn’t surprise me at all if this was really Kobo’s idea. I think Kobo is getting more out of it (access to the mainstream American market) than Walmart is
  • Audiobooks: this probably the most interesting part of this, a $9.99 a month audiobook subser

You can see the details on all of this starting here:

Walmart eBooks

I’ve read through the audiobook conditions…basically, for $9.99 you can get one audiobook (which could be a considerable savings). Outside of that, you can piece buy more (at the regular price) or “top up” by buying three more “instant credits”.

I’m seeing this being presented in coverage as underselling Amazon’s Audible, which is $14.95 for a similar one credit.

However, Amazon gives you a lot of other benefits.

Also, if you don’t care about owning the e-books but just want to listen to them, you can have access to a lot more for a similar price to Walmart’s by joining

Kindle Unlimited (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

If you want to try this, you can. You can set up a free trial (like you can with Audible), and you’ll get a $10 credit towards an e-book or audiobook. Then, hypothetically, you could cancel. So, you can get a that $10 to try out a book (audio or e).

My bottom line on this? I think it’s low risk for Walmart, and I expect it to be around for a while. I think Kobo has taken on the lion’s share of the risk, but that this will probably work for them.

I don’t see much impact on Amazon…although I think they’ll have to consider dropping the Audible subscription price, at elast for an intro (after the free trial), even if it is only temporarily at the holidays. They could give that price only to Prime members, perhaps.

This could get some antiammers (Anti-Amazon folks…I just made that up) used to e-books, which might help in the long run.

What do you think? Will you download the app and get the free trial, just to test it? Do you think this will have much of an impact on Amazon? How about on Barnes & Noble? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

A couple of articles:


Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

** While the Kindle was released in November 2007, it would really have been around 2009 that a place like Walmart might have made a big move into it…the 2007 holiday season was upon them too quickly, and you might wait a year to see how it went

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

4 Responses to “Walmart starts selling e-books/Kobo EBRs”

  1. Phink Says:

    I used to say if I were starting over with eBooks for the 1st time I would probably go with KOBO over the Kindle. I think it’s a better product although I must admit I’ve never even seen one in person so I could be wrong. I have researched it and like what I have learned.

    However, I recently got a used Kindle Oasis 1st gen and love it. I think the frame makes it so easy to hold and it’s a delight. I’m not sure I’d go with KOBO now because I think the Oasis is that good as far as how it feels to hold it.

    It does not matter as I’m too heavily invested in Amazon to switch. I want my books in one place. I wish we could read our books on all devices but companies will never allow that to happen. Or will they?

    I’d guess 6 months ago a company called Movies Anywhere came around…or least I first heard of them…and they had a system in place to allow my digital movies (I have over 400) I’ve purchased and got through free digital copy codes, to be joined across accounts. I had a whole slew tied to Apple that I could not play anymore except on Apple TV and I hardly ever turned it on. I had a bunch tied to VUDU and about 10 I owned at Amazon, as well as 2 or 3 at Google Play Store I got for free.

    Now, 90% of them all show up in every format. If I turn on my Apple TV then there they are. If I turn on my ROKU and go to the Amazon app, or VUDU app, there they are. It seems about 10% will not show up except on the format I bought them. I’m sure it’s a copyright thing where those rights will not convert.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Phink!

      Interesting! I don’t own many movies any more myself. I have some boxed sets, but mostly, I just watch streaming movies I don’t own.

      MP3 music can be heard anywhere, and that’s worked pretty well…but streaming does create exclusives.

      As to Kobo being better…I’ve never held one, either. 🙂 However, the integration of Amazon, meaning that my e-books are handled by the same people as so many other things, would outweigh slight technical advantages for me.

  2. Karen Salmons Says:

    No, no and no. 😁 While I won’t grossly overpay for Amazon devices, etc as Apple fans do, my opinion only, I get way more value from being a Prime member than $5 a month less for audio books. Like you, I expect them to do okay and wish them well, but i don’t plan to participate.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Karen!

      Makes sense! There’s a risk to Amazon in being in so many places in customer’s lives…poisoning the pond in one category could affect their loyalty in all categories. However, despite occasional missteps, that hasn’t happened for me yet…knock virtual wood. 😉

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