Books written by Ray Sullivan

Monday, 19 December 2011

Play Squares Up To Asda In Kobo Sales War

As predicted in my blog on 6 December, Play have matched Asda in the battle for the low-end Kobo eReaders as the UK hurtles into the last week of the Christmas season build up.  It's hardly surprising, given that Play is owned by Rakuten, the company that bought Kobo a month or so ago for $315 million and Play's historically agressive sales stance.

While neither organisation is selling the Kobo Vox, Kobo's flagship eReader - I think the tag 'super eReader' would be appropriate for devices such as this and Amazon's Kindle Fire - they are both selling the basic Kobo and the Kobo Touch at prices that directly challenge Amazon's basic eReaders.  Play are selling the basic Kobo for £69.99 including VAT and with free delivery, the same price as WH Smith are selling it for in-store, whereas Asda are selling it at a straight £67.00.  The Touch is selling for £99.99 at Play and WH Smith versus £97.00 at Asda - this is a £10 discount from its launch just a couple of weeks ago and represents tremendous value.

Critically we are entering the final week of Christmas present buying and eReaders are creating a buzz among those still looking to buy a meaningful present for loved ones - they're techie, clearly pointing at the future, cool and at these prices, affordable.  The closest Amazon can get on the UK high street is the basic Kindle, selling for £89 at Tesco.  The next step in their inventory, the Kindle Touch, isn't on sale in the UK at all, leaving two major gaps in the market including the Kindle Fire. You can get the 3G version of the Kindle for around £150, and as far as I know that's the only device that allows you to download books without the need for an Internet connection - it's surprising how many people still don't have WiFi or even basic net access - and as the 3G includes never ending, toll-free access is worthy of consideration for those who don't have WiFi.  For my money, though, as long as the format isn't critical to you, the Kobo Touch represents much better value.  Anyone still looking at buying an eReader as a present who hasn't ordered it online will have to rely on the high street anyway as there isn't enough time to guarantee delivery. 

So it is to Asda we should be looking to buy our Kobo eReaders, but be quick - Asda will realise that Play no longer represent a challenge to pre-Christmas sales as Play don't have a high street presence, although WH Smith will help keep the price steady.  My advice is, if you've decided on the basic Kobo or the Kobo Touch, then get down to Asda today before they push the price up.  But if it's the Vox you're after, then pop into one of WH Smith's stores (there's 650 in the UK) where it is selling for £169.99 still.  It's selling for $200 plus local taxes in the US, head to head with Amazon's Kindle Fire, so hopefully that price will hold beyond Christmas, especially as Amazon have signalled loud and clear that they are launching the Fire over here in January.  Perhaps the Kindle Touch will make a belated market entry on these shores then, too.


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