Here’s a small footnote for the ongoing B&N death spiral. This morning Rakuten released their end of year financial statements. There’s no specific info about Kobo, but I did want to point out a few details.
Rakuten’s internet services division (it includes Kobo) generated $3 billion USD in revenue last year. Their internet finance division added another billion and a half on to of that.
Update: I now have a few more details on Kobo. It was briefly mentioned in the streamed invester’s call (slide 26). There were no specifics, but Kobo revenue was up 143%. Kobo’s ebookstore in japan now reportedly carries 120k titles. And like Kobo mentioned in their end of year press release, Kobo now has 12 million customers around the world.
I’m pointing this out in order to show that even if Kobo
isn’t weren’t doing well in the ebook market they have a parent company that can afford to support them for a long time (until the next internal power struggle, at least). Rakuten is somewhat like Amazon in that both companies are big enough to afford the capital investments in an ereader platform. That’s an important difference between Kobo, Kindle, and Nook because Barnes & Noble doesn’t have the same deep pockets.
This, folks, is why the comments thread on this blog has turned into a discussion on who should buy Nook Media. Deep pockets is likely also what B&N was looking for when they first spun off Nook Media, but unfortunately they didn’t follow the idea through and actually sell off the new subsidiary. Instead they picked up a piecemeal investment from Microsoft.
I’ve been reading a lot of the coverage of B&N over the past few weeks, and few of the opinion pieces mentioned selling off Nook Media. I don’t know if the writers thought it had little value left, but I have always seen the sale of Nook Media as B&N’s best shot. It’s the one part of the company that doesn’t fit in with the rest (besides Sterling Publishing).
Owning one of your suppliers only works well if you know how to operate in the relevant industry (or the entire activity is internalized to the parent). And from what we are now seeing with B&N and Nook Media, B&N doesn’t now how to run a hardware development firm.
P.S. Speaking of Sterling, how much do you want to bet that Amazon made an offer? B&N would never go for it but it’s entirely possible that Amazon was interested.