Walmart, Costco, Target and Other Retailers to Start Selling eBooks?

ReaderLink eBooks

Last week Publishers Weekly posted an interesting article about how ebooks could be coming to grocery stores, drug stores, and other mass-market retailers in as little as six to eight months, maybe sooner.

At this stage in ebook evolution it still seems a bit odd to buy ebooks from stores like Walmart and Walgreens, but that’s where things could be headed with a new partnership between txtr, a German-based ebook company backed by 3M, and ReaderLink, whom distributes print books in the U.S. to all kinds retails stores.

ReaderLink’s plan is to allow individual retailers to setup ebook stores from their websites rather than sell them in stores. They may also plan to sell the ultra-cheap txtr beagle ereader from stores, along with a low-cost tablet.

The idea is to use txtr’s ebook library, cloud storage, and an open device approach. The ebooks are in ePub format and have Adobe DRM so they will work with pretty much any tablet and ebook reader except the Kindle.

This partnership gives retailers like Target and Walmart the opportunity to sell content for ebook reader and tablet devices that they are already selling. Each retailer has control over their own marketing and retailing strategy in regards to selling ebooks so it will be interesting to see what they choose to do in the upcoming months.

Something tells me it’s not going to be easy to get retail stores to get on board with the idea of selling ebooks. Paper books are one thing; ebooks are a completely different animal that requires specialized knowledge and technical support. I can’t wait to see how this plays out, but wouldn’t be surprised to never hear of it again.

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9 Responses to “Walmart, Costco, Target and Other Retailers to Start Selling eBooks?”

  1. I seriously doubt that the txtr/Readerlink deal includes the beagle.

    One, the press release doesn’t mention the beagle as part of the deal. If you want the press release I can forward it to you. All it says is “Together, ReaderLink and txtr also plan to make available to retailers an affordable dedicated eReader or tablet that they can offer their customers.”

    Two, the beagle is designed to be a smartphone accessory, so it is more likely be sold via telecoms. Given the limitations it makes little sense to try to tie the beagle to an ebookstore.

    And three, txtr said that they’re not planning on selling the beagle in the American market just yet.

    And finally, here’s what I think of the hype surrounding this deal:
    http://www.the-digital-reader.com/2013/01/08/readerlink-txtr-why-the-bleep-would-anyone-think-that-was-a-big-deal/

  2. And one other problem I have with the way everyone is interpreting this bit of news is the assumption that walmart, Costco, and Target needed ReaderLink to make a deal with txtr.

    The larger retailers could have dealt directly with txtr if they had really been interested in having an ebookstore. They don’t have ebookstores because they’re not interested in having them.

    • Yeah and none of these retail stores were jumping at the chance to sell Google eBooks when that was going around. Nobody cared about Google ebooks and no one is going to care about txtr either.

      • Let’s not forget that txtr isn’t the only ebookstore facilitator out there. Bluefire has been doing decent business providing the backend services as well as a customized client/reader for the interested. Such as the Family Christian chain.
        And with all the reports of the US ebook market plateauing this would not be the best of times to jump in with a generic ebookstore, would it? Seems to be a wee bit late for the me-too’ers.

  3. It’s not as if Walmart’s MP3 business did so well for them that’d be eager to go back into digital content sales.
    And if Walmart couldn’t leverage *their* brand for digital content, why would anybody elsse expect theirs to do any better?

  4. Will be good if they sold ebooks on CD or flash drive etc., as a collection. This would have more appeal I would think.

  5. Until they make a version of the Beagle that can side-load eBooks via USB (like any normal eReader), we won’t be seeing it anywhere in large numbers.

    If txtr could get past their weird proprietary obsession, they could potentially go global with a $20 eReader. The txtr Beagle is powered by two replaceable Energizer batteries (and boasts a full 1 year of battery life). It features an 800 x 600 5″ display and physical page turn buttons. I would definitely go for that. But they need to natively support ePub on the device and get rid of their ridiculous app-loading idea. What idiot came up with that.

    • If txtr got past their “weird proprietary obsession” the Beagle wouldn’t sell for $20. The only way they can hit that price point is by tying the eink viewer to a cellphone contract and having the carrier pay the rest of the cost of the device. (Which I’ve seen estimated at over $50 just from the screen and assembly costs.)

      Also note that Kobo had their Mini reader at US$50 over the holidays. That sort of deal usually foreshadows the regular price 6-12 months down the road. So working to get the Beagle to sideload (incurring added hardware and software costs–a a minimum licensing Adobe ADE) would at best result in a $40-50 Beagle.
      That would have to compete with $50 Kobos and Nooks and possibly even Kindles.
      In a market that is no longer booming.
      A $20 standalone reader sounds tempting but we’re years away from seeing that anywhere outside Big Lots. :)

    • Yeah, the txtr Beagle is a seriously horrible ereader in its current state. All it does is mirror an image from a cell phone. You can’t even adjust font size or anything. It’s another one of those things that’s taking ereaders backwards instead of forwards.