Australian Sony Reader owners could be next in line as Sony transfers US and Canadian Sony Reader owners to rival Kobo.
Sony plans to close its North American eBook stores on March 30, promising customers a smooth transition to the Canadian-based Kobo service. eBooks purchased from the Sony Reader store will be transferred to Kobo accounts, as will unused credit. Sony Reader owners will still be able to use their Sony e-Ink reader to read eBooks from Kobo.
The move comes after last year's decision not to sell the new Sony eBook Reader in the United States, with Sony instead electing to focus on smartphones and tablets. It's also part of Sony's wider strategy to streamline the business, with this week's announcements that it's selling off its Vaio PC business and spinning off its television business into a separate arm.
The Sony eBook store announcement is limited to the North American region, according to a Sony Australia spokesperson;
"In Australia, Sony has been increasing the number of Reader Store users, especially users who enjoy reading on multiple devices by expanding the range of compatible devices and enhancing the selection of digital content. Sony will operate its business based on the specific market environment."
Reading between the lines, you might translate this as "wait and see" depending on what happens in the Australian market. Pushing for clarification, I was told;
"Sony Australia has no plans at this time to close its Australian Reader store."
Sony faces stiff competition from the likes of Kobo and Amazon's Kindle in Australia, not to mention Google and Apple. In the US it also has to fend off giants like Barnes & Noble. It's a tough market and it remains to be seen if the Sony Reader and its store can fare better here than in North America.
The Sony Reader PRST3BC is still on sale in Australia. The good news for Australians is that Kobo has a strong presence locally, so if Sony does decide to abandon its Australian eBook store then they should also hopefully be offered a smooth transition to Kobo. You can also buy DRM-protected ePub eBooks from other stores – except Amazon and Apple – and transfer them to the Sony Reader using Adobe Digital Edition desktop software, so owners aren't necessarily stuck with Kobo's ecosystem.
When you consider how some gadget owners have been left in the lurch over the years, you have to give credit to Sony for not abandoning its customers. Do you read eBooks? Where do you buy them from and what do you read them on?