Amazon and Barnes & Noble are the clear leaders in e-books and e-book readers in the U.S., but the race is just getting under way internationally, where the digital book market is still very much in its nascent stage.
Canadian upstart Kobo, which is currently well behind the e-book leaders in the U.S., has always had a global strategy, and is now launching in Germany, with an e-book store that offers 80,000 German-language titles and a total of 2.4 million e-books. By contrast, Amazon currently offers around 25,000 German-language titles.
As part of the launch, Kobo has developed free German-language apps for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, and Android, with a PlayBook app coming soon. A German-language version of
So far, Amazon has yet to release additional, language-specific versions of the Kindle (beyond English), and Barnes & Noble has yet to take the Nook global, though it keeps hinting that it will.
Kobo CEO Michael Serbinis told CNET that Kobo is already the No. 1 e-reading platform in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, and that it will soon launch country-specific e-book stores in Spain, France, Italy, and Holland. Serbinis said that his company is focused on a "partnership approach" with local bookstores and publishers and claimed that Kobo has an advantage over Amazon overseas because Amazon's model is much more "direct" to consumer and booksellers are wary of Amazon.
"In places like Germany, publishers and booksellers are very excited about the potential of e-books but they don't want to make the mistakes they feel were made in the U.S.," Serbinis said. "In terms of the e-book market, Europe looks a lot like the U.S. of two years ago. They're basically two years behind."