When Rakuten, Japan’s leading e-commerce company, introduced its Kobo e-reader in Japan in July 2012, the company’s chief executive, Hiroshi Mikitani, presented a gift to Yoshinobu Noma, the president of Kodansha, Japan’s largest publisher, reports The New York Times.
It was a t-shirt emblazoned with “Beat Amazon.” Mr. Mikitani wanted to signal that the two companies had no intention of slugging it out in a print-versus-digital fight in Japan.
The alliance did little to help them defend against Amazon. Four months later, Amazon brought its Kindle e-reader to Japan. It quickly became Japan’s top-selling e-reader, gaining 38.3 per cent of the market, according to the MM Research Institute, a data firm in Tokyo. Even though Rakuten’s Kobo had beaten Kindle to market by nearly five months, it grabbed only 33 per cent of Japan’s e-reader sales during the same 12-month period. Sony, which had stated its goal of selling half of all e-readers by 2012, managed to hold only 25.5 per cent with its devices.