Walmart and Rakuten Team Up for E-reader, E-book Deal

Category : Business

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. strike a deal / straɪk ə dil / (idiom) – to come to an agreement on something

    The fashion company struck a deal with the director to feature its clothing lines in his films.

  2. anagram / ˈæn əˌgræm / (n) – a word or phrase made by rearranging the letters of another word

    Toyota’s Camry can be an anagram of the phrase ‘my car.’

  3. minuscule / ˈmɪn əˌskyul, mɪˈnʌs kyul / (adj) – extremely small

    She quit her job as a waitress because of her minuscule salary.

  4. lead the pack / lid ðə pæk / (idiom) – to be in the lead; to be the best

    The top university’s graduates lead the pack in the engineering industry.

  5. far cry / fɑr kraɪ / (idiom) – very different from something

    Our excellent sales performance this year is a far cry from our poor 2017 figures.


Read the text below.

Walmart, one of the biggest US retailers, has struck a deal with Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten. With this deal, Walmart became the official US distributor of Rakuten’s Kobo e-readers.

Kobo e-readers are now available on and in Walmart stores across the United States. Customers can then access roughly six million e-books and audiobooks through the newly developed Walmart-Kobo app on their e-readers or on iOS and Android devices.

Created in 2009 by Canadian bookstore chain Indigo, Kobo started as a cloud e-reading app called Shortcovers, which allowed users to access their e-books anywhere as long as they had an Internet connection. It was renamed Kobo – an anagram for the word ‘book’ – in the same year. Two years later, Rakuten acquired it after a $315 million deal.

In early 2017, Kobo held only a minuscule 0.3% share in US e-book sales. It continues to face stiff competition from Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks, Barnes and Noble’s Nook, and Google, with Amazon Kindle leading the pack.

Despite being the target of Walmart’s expansion efforts, the e-reader market has been showing signs of decline. Statistics show that global e-reader shipments peaked at 23.2 million units in 2011 but started dropping in the years that followed, with shipments in 2016 reaching only 7.1 million units.

On the other hand, e-book sales continue to rise, with revenues expected to reach up to $8.7 billion this year – a far cry from its $270 million revenue in 2008. Researchers believe that e-books continue to flourish because people are more likely to read on tablets and smartphones than on e-readers, which have very limited features.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• Do you think that the partnership will help Kobo succeed in the US market despite data showing that e-reader sales are falling?
• What other companies have also teamed up in the past? How did the team-up benefit each company?

Discussion B

• What industries in your country have stiff competition (e.g. cosmetics, fast food)? How does each company try to stand out from the rest?
• How does stiff competition in a certain industry benefit consumers? Discuss.
Category : Business