Move over, Amazon, because there is about to be a new major digital bookseller in town: starting sometime this year, American retail giant Walmart will begin offering ebooks and audiobooks to their customers in the United States. If you've ever dreamed about buying all of your toiletries, cleaning supplies, houseware basics, and TBR list all in one digital shopping cart, this is your chance.
They may be late to the game, but thanks to a recent alliance with Rakuten, the leading e-commerce company in Japan, Walmart is finally breaking into the digital book market. This new exclusive partnership will allow Walmart to start selling nearly six million titles from thousands of major and indie publishers to American shoppers. Selections will be available for purchase on Walmart's website and mobile shopping platforms, as well as in stores in the form of "ebook cards," physical cards that grant readers digital access to books. Both online and stores, Walmart will also begin selling Kobo ereaders, one of the most popular digital reading devices outside the U.S. in countries like Canada, the U.K., France, and Australia.
"Working with Rakuten Kobo enables us to quickly and efficiently launch a full ebook and audiobook catalog on Walmart.com to provide our customers with additional choices alongside our assortment of physical books," Walmart's Chief Revenue Officer Scott Hilton said on Thursday in an official announcement about the deal. "As the exclusive mass retail partner of the Kobo brand in the U.S., that full assortment of ebooks will be available on Walmart.com later this year, with audiobooks launching after that."
Walmart's new ebook content can be accessed in a variety of ways. In addition to the Kobo ereaders, shoppers can enjoy their new purchases on Walmart/Kobo co-branded apps that will be available on all iOS and Android devices, as well as on a desktop app. Walmart will also offer shoppers the option to purchase physical copies of their digital books, so if you (like me) thinks there is no such thing as too many versions of the same story, this just might be your new favorite way to buy books. It seems like, no matter what kind of reader (or listener) you are, Walmart is trying to make it easier for you to enjoy your favorite hobby.
This new move by Walmart, which is one of the world's largest retailers, is company's latest attempt to compete with their biggest rival, Amazon. This venture into the digital book world is just one of the new territories Walmart is trying to stake its claim to. According to company's announcement, the retailer will also be working with Rakuten to launch online grocery delivery services in Japan.
For their part, Rakuten has expressed excitement with their new partnership, especially in the digital book space. “Walmart is one of the top retailers in the world, and one of the largest booksellers," said Rakuten Kobo's CEO Michael Tamblyn. "Our strategy from day one has been to partner with the world’s best retailers, so that they can easily offer their customers the option of reading digitally. This informs the software and devices we create, the books and authors we promote and also the partnerships we build,”
While they have not yet announced an official launch date for their new digital venture, Walmart is promising customers that all of their reading needs— ebooks, audiobooks, and ereaders — can be met in stores and online later this year. Whether you like buying physical copies of books, reading digital versions on your device, or listening to audiobooks on your phone, Walmart is about to be your one-stop bookish shop.