back to article WHSmith launches e-book reader rivals to Amazon Kindle

WHSmith will next week launch against Amazon's Kindle with a pair of e-book readers of its own. The UK newsagent will begin selling the Kobo reader from the Canadian company of the same name on 17 October. WHSmith Kobo Touch e-book reader Kobo has e-book stores in Canada and Australia, and the WHSmith deal will bring its 2. …


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  1. JDX Gold badge


    Amazon is the world-brand for books online. WHSmith is clinging on based on former glories.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      O really?

      English is not the only language out there ya know.

      Let's see:

      Amazon - Russian eBook titles - 0. - > 40000 titles (in both ePub and Kindle mobi).

      Amazon - French eBook titles... Amazon Spanish eBook titles... and so on.

      As far as the reader - it is worth getting for the ePub.

      Amazon kindle is too well integrated - if you do not de-register it, all purchases are one-click. Anyone who has access to the reading material can buy too.

      There is no way in hell I am giving a one-click purchase access via my account to junior for example. If you de-register the Kindle however it becomes inferior to Sony and all the rest because it does not support ePub.

      So all in all especially outside the UK/USA the jury is still out and will remain out for a long time (I do not see Amazon catching up to for Russian books for example).

    2. Arnold Lieberman

      Give up?

      Better get along to Asda, Sainsburys and Waitrose and tell them to give up cos Tesco is the biggest supermarket.

    3. Arrrggghh-otron

      Pop in and buy a magazine?

      And there was me thinking that I would be able to buy this thing from WHSmiths and then pop in store (or go to their web site) and buy a magazine (not a subscription) for pennies as the print versions are getting so pricey... I guess if it happens the 'e' version will be twice the price!

      1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        Actually pop-up and buy an ebook reader

        WH Smith has one _MAJOR_ advantage - it is present at all airports. If this gadget is on the shelf when I go with the family on holiday in few weeks time I am getting one.

        For two reasons:

        1. It will be only 70 quid

        2. It will not be registered versus my credit card so I can give it to junior or grandma without having any second thoughts.

      2. Grease Monkey

        @Argotron and why would that differ from Amazon?

        It matters not who the vendor is, e-books should be a fraction the price of their paper equivalents, but aren't.

        To any ebook seller out there: How do the profit margins on your ebooks and paper books compare?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          The publisher, retailer, Author an co all take a cut, the actual cost of production isnt actually that much when you think of it per unit of sale, the more thats produced the cheaper it is! i dont think prices will drop much, demand isnt that high, when you see multi buy offers cropping up then demand has increased, IF it continues to increase then you will see price wars but those will cut margins for the retailer in question, Tescos Asda etc are very good at this, in many cases their "big" book releases are sold at a loss, intentially to get you in the shop to buy other stuff at a higher margin, they have the grunt to do that on a few select titles but you wont see back catalogue.

          1. Grease Monkey

            "The publisher, retailer, Author an co all take a cut, the actual cost of production isnt actually that much when you think of it per unit of sale"

            Well obviously the author gets a cut, but it isn't usually much. There are a few authors on massive rates, but they are the exception rather than the rule.

            And yes the publisher gets a cut but in the internet age the retailers really have an opportunity to do something about that market. The music publishing industry is being impacted by internet retailling, why not the printed word?

            The costs of a physical book are a significant part of the equation once you take everything into account. There's the obvious cost of actually producing the book. Then there's distribution and storage. Amazon put such a dent in the book retailing industry in the first place because they could cut away a lot of that. After all they didn't need to ship books to individual stores, just to one big warehouse. Amazon also address some of these cost issues with all those DVDs that ship from Indigo Starfish. Another cost that you get when buying from Amazon is postage. Remember every book you buy from Amazon comes with "free" postage built into the the list price. You don't pay that for an ebook.

            The book industry in general is slow to change in the UK, remember how long to took to kill the net price agreement.

          2. John McCallum

            Supermarket Books

            you will also have a hard job finding something that is atall readable great if all you read are bodice rippers or self agrandizing autobiogaphies otherwise trash.

      3. Dave Bell

        The big problem

        Printing and distribution are quite a small part of the cover price of a book or magazine, and since the electronic version attracts VAT, there isn't much room to cut the price when you sell to a e-reader.

        Do you want works of the same quality as now? Some of those freebies and ultra-cheap ebooks are of awful quality.

    4. Kurgan

      I hope not so pointless

      Good and cheap(ish) e-readers other than the Kindle series do not exist, and I'm really happy to see that someone is trying to offer some alternative product. I'm just waiting for the first touch screen e-readers to decide which suites me best. And I am taking into account the flexibility of the reader, as opposed to the closeness of the market that Amazon is trying to obtain. (sorry if I express myself as a monkey, my mother tongue is not English)

      So, if I can buy an e-book reader that is as good as the Kindle, but with added extra formats support (epub, mobi, html, pdf, rtf, text...) then that is my preferred choice.

      1. Lottie
        Thumb Up


        Seems like fine english to me!

        I also agree with your point.

    5. frank ly

      WHSmith - former glories

      If I could browse the top shelf for free, for five minutes a day; that would work for me. Ah, memories.

    6. LuMan


      Not so sure...

      I agree that Amazon have become synonomous with online books, but WHSmith has quite a loyal user-base (the one in my town is constantly busy). If this comes out just before Christmas (which it is) and appeals to the type of folk who normally wouldn't take a look at e-readers (which it may) and can offer over 1m publications for free, it might just do it. Add into that the fact that WHSmith can make offers inside its stores to its customers directly (i.e. not through a computer) and all of a sudden you start to get a pretty good business model.

      Time will tell, I suppose.

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      There may be some mileage in it..

      There are a lot of avid readers who don't know what a kindle is - some/most of these still go into WHS (and waterstones, etc) to buy books.

      These are the target I guess.

      Whether the target is big enough to make money - who knows? Anybody even slightly technical or IT literate will immediate make comparisons on functionality, ease of use and price between this and other e-book readers.

      Still, competition is always good I guess - and if it can be more easily 'jailbroken/homebrewed' that other devices it could gain a wider audience that anticipated.

    8. Magnus Ramage

      Sure, Amazon are the global leader for books in general, and especially e-books. I buy from Amazon all the time, and very good they are too. But monocultures help nobody, and the idea of Amazon as the *sole* large corporation selling e-books is pretty unattractive. A bit of healthy competition can only be good for them, and the market in general. Whether this particular product is the thing to provide that competition is less clear, but it seems to me a good idea in general.

    9. Rob

      Completely agree...

      ... I think the Post Office deal has kept WHSmith alive, otherwise it would probably have gone the way of Woolworths.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        post office

        the post office was a win win for all parties, something the papers and local busy bodies seemed to miss but about 7 years ago WH Smith made major changes to safe guard its presence on the high street, Woolies did not, up until their demise Woolies were still spending too much and making too little, Margins are everything and they seemed to miss that point. WH Smith may have gone too far with some cost cutting but at the end of the day, they havent and wont pull a woolies so yes the PO in stores did help some stores but it did not prop up the company.

        1. Grease Monkey

          @AC Woollies. You totally misunderstand the situation with Woollies. What killed them was the fact that they didn't protect their retail business from the music wholesale business. Woollies were effectively killed by a single wholesale customer who did not pay their bills. The wholesale arm were idiots for continuing to supply a retailler who did not pay for anything, but with a proper business structure the retail arm would not have suffered for that.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            At woolies

            yes that is part correct, it actually goes further than that, the split with Kingfisher was the first nail in the coffin and lumped them with a large amount of debt.

            Anyhow, the ability of a company to stay afloat is in its worth, 2007 saw sales flop big time, part of 2008 saw sales continue to drop but profit just about increased, but because of everything else going on around then shareholders where not happy with the way it was being run, simply put, it reacted far to late with no solid plan to keep margins high and costs down, share price tumbled, its worth decreased, credit was removed as it became a risk, it ended up having to pay cash which it couldnt maintain, it was unable to pay its debts and bam, shareprice fell off a cliff, good bye!

            Smiths, many years ago put in a solid plan that hasnt changed, profit has increased, costs are kept down, sales may have dropped but this was all put in the prediction for the plan, they are now starting to expand again. share price for smiths is now above the point where the credit crunch really delt a hammer blow,

          2. John McCallum

            witness the fact that there are a miriad of Woolies look alikes in the very same shops that were Woolies.

    10. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Errm no

      EPUB is the standard for epublications, and Kindle does not support it, rather opting for their own proprietary locked down MOBI DRM format.

      Only an idiot would buy a Kindle, it's the iTunes for books, offering convenience at the expense of lack of choice and market forces to keep prices low.

      You got sucked in by a loss-leader pricing on hardware and will pay for that mistake...

  2. James 51 Silver badge

    How accurate is that photo? If that is the navagiation buttons on the bottom right It's going to make using it less comfortable for lefties.

    1. Grease Monkey

      It's only a navigation control. It doesn't really matter which hand you use, it doesn't need fine control.

    2. King Jack

      Not so

      The same difficulty a lefty has driving a car or putting on a shirt. Or playing a piano, using a keyboard. Being left handed only means you have a preference to use your left hand. If you have never done something before, it makes no odds which hand you use. The world does not need to be reversed for left handed people.

      1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
        Thumb Down

        Spoken like a rightie!

        1. My Alter Ego
          Thumb Down

          @Uncle Slacky

          Or possibly spoken like a rightie in a family of lefties. My parents and both my sisters are lefties. They always had the mouse on the left hand side, seeing as I'd never used one I simply used my left hand too. It's not hard (as the late Steve Jobs would say). I still will quite happily use a mouse in my left hand if I need to do a lot of number pad entries. I also use my left hand to type on my smartphone (don't ask me why though)

          Unless of course you're falling into the trap of believing that lefties are awkward.

      2. gerryg

        @King Jack

        You remind me of my first (wannabe) guitar teacher. If I could play a new chord for every right-hander that advised me that I would find it easier to learn to play the guitar the wrong way round...

        My numeric keypad remains in pristine condition. I find it near impossible to use most portable power cutting tools. Yes, it's me that reaches out for the hot water tap by mistake. When I'm slightly distracted I open the wrong tube barrier. Actually, when the bank of milk stool barriers were first introduced at Holborn I assumed they were not working because they never worked for me - It was only when I saw another leftie take her ticket out then transfer it to her right hand (P Marsden where are you now?) that the penny dropped.

        Irons and kettle are two of the few devices that are handed neutral but the design history of those is quite amusing.

        I do not take a conscious decision to be left-handed, I spend a fair amount of time coping (sometimes badly) with a right handed world.

        1. Grease Monkey

          @gerryg many lefties find it easier to learn to play guitar from a right handed teacher. The reason being that looking at your teacher is like looking in a mirror. The reason that many lefties play guitar right handed is that it's always been harder to find left handed instruments, especially at the budget end of the scale.

        2. My Alter Ego


          Fuck me, out of a family of left handers I've never heard anyone mention things like that. I've never seen my dad have issues with power tools, in fact I'm quite happy to use a drill or sander in my left hand if I can't get into the correct position or my right hand is simply tired.

          It seems that you're happier to complain about an unfair world configured for [about] 90% of the population than learn to rely less on your preferred hand.

  3. Matthew Collier

    That may be so....

    but perhaps there is a niche market for people who don't want to give money to a locked down platform...

    Besides, with that thinking, nobody would ever try and innovate in, or enter, any established market.

  4. Pete 2

    Tiny, tiny, tiny screen

    Take a sheet of A4 and fold it in half twice - so it's down to A6 size. The 6-inch screen on this thing is smaller than that! It's basically the size of a a Post-It note and a little over half the area of an average paperback.

    While it "fits in your pocket easily" it sounds like it's much more likely to slide down the crack in the sofa and be lost forever. Personally, I'll hold out for a tablet/reader/thingy that's A4 sized and preferably flexible. Tthough I will probably be waiting a long time, I don't mind, it's not really that important.

    1. Grease Monkey

      "I'll hold out for a tablet/reader/thingy that's A4 sized "

      Why would you (personally) want that. A normal paperback has an 8" page diagonal, A4 is over 14" and obviously a 14" screen would need a chassis larger than that. So you (personally) want an e-reader that's so big you would need a laptop bag to transport it? Curious.

      And, yes, the word "personally" was entirely redundant in your sentence.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        its actually very light and comfortable, the screen size and text appear very well and the fact that it acts as a large storage device for anything you can think off and that you can slap in a Micro SD card of any size makes it quite handy. the Battery life doesnt last as long as the others but hell, a month is pretty good and there is a good chance you can find some juice for it any where on the planet.

        its much bigger than a post it note! lol has your partner been 'telling you' what 7in looks like all this time ;)

        1. Grease Monkey

          Two things about the Kindle DX; it is nowhere near A4 size. Under 10" where A4 is about 14"; and it is no longer available. While the former kind of weakens the argument the latter kills it stone dead.

          Had a look at the latest Kindle this weekend (also a 6" screen) and I didn't have a problem with the screen size at all. Plenty big enough for reading, even with my glasses on. I think some of the people complaining about the screen size may never have encountered eInk. If you haven't then bear in mind that it is nothing like a laptop/tablet screen, it's pretty much like looking at ink on paper and that makes all the difference.

    2. johnnytruant

      A4 readers

      Kindle DX, Boox M90, Pocketbook Pro 902, Irex DR1000.

      All A4 (or near as dammit) and some of them have been around quite a few years. The Boox M90 is a particularly nice specimen, and what will probably replace my creaky-but-still-serviceable iRex iLiad when it finally dies.

      Also, tablet != ereader. One is LCD/xLED, the other is eInk. There is no comparison, even with the latest high ppi transmissive screens (and yes, I've read on both technologies.)

    3. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      I learned something new!

      "Take a sheet of A4 and fold it in half twice - so it's down to A6 size. The 6-inch screen on this thing is smaller than that!"

      You're right; A6 is near as damn it 7" diagonal.

      Now whether that (even 6" or smaller) is useful and readable or not depends on quality of screen, personal preference, and no doubt eyesight. I've got printed books which come in at around that size which are acceptable, some smaller, but I do prefer larger. However, I don't fancy lugging an A4 reader around with me as that's just too large and inconvenient for me, in fact larger than most books I have.

      For interest - A4 is 14.5" diagonal, A5 is 10", DVD cases are 9", A6 is 7", A6 folded in half is 5".

    4. Svantevid

      "Personally, I'll hold out for a tablet/reader/thingy that's A4 sized and preferably flexible. "


      Try Kindle DX, then, with its 9,7" screen.

      For me, normal Kindle 3 (6" screen) is quite sufficient. And I can carry it everywhere in my pocket, which is a huge bonus as I don't have to lug a rucksack for Kindle DX.

  5. Code Monkey
    Thumb Down

    WH Smith?

    Presumably it's only compatible with ghostwritten celebutard autobiographies.

  6. Whitter

    Glories? Eh?

    Glories? Eh?

    Expensive crisps and mags in train stations and wee shops beside bus stops?

  7. Thomas 18

    Colour 10 inch e-reader please

    Then I will get one to read all those graphic novels and comics on.

  8. Meerkatdawg

    Too little too late

    Waste of time. I used to own a Sony eBook and had the misfortune of using the WH Smith eBook shop. Many new eBooks were more expensive than their hardback versions - even at full price on release. That's why I dumped it and bought a Kindle. Amazon has had the right idea from the start about pricing.

  9. Neil McDowell
    Black Helicopters

    Walled Garden

    Will this be locked in to WHSmith's online business or can you buy books from anywhere?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      buy what ever you like where ever you like, except the likes of kindel books

  10. John 73


    WHS have been listing the Touch for a while (and have been selling the older model for even longer) but so far they've listed the price as £179, which is way too high. The Kobo's a nice reader, but it's $125 in the USA. If they start selling it at £110, they've got an excellent chance. Glad to see Kobo finally launch the Touch over here. I've been waiting for it for months!

    1. Matthew Collier
      Thumb Up

      According to the WHSmith website.....

      ...non Touch will be £89 and the Touch will be £109. I popped into a WHSmith in the City (of London) at lunchtime and they have them to sell now. Official launch on Monday, when they will have them on display/to play with.

      I might just jump in (not willing to support a locked down platform, so have been waiting (and the prices keep on coming down too).

      Like most (all) other eBook readers, they act as a standard USB mass storage device, so will work fine with Linux. You'll need to install their app (Windows/Mac/Android/iOS) though, to install any DRM bought content, like the stuff from their (Kobo's) online store.

      1. Grease Monkey

        Those prices are curiously similar to the Kindle prices aren't they. What is the obsession with price matching these days? Why do retailers think that selling for exactly the same price as their competitors is enough? I'm sure if they sold them for £5 below the price of the equivalent Kindle they would sell loads more.

        Imagine if you were looking for a Kindle and WHS told you their product was a fiver less, but did exactly the same thing even down to having the same screen. Most people would be tempted. At the same price however a lot of people will plump for the Kindle because they've heard of it.

        And don't be fooled by the comments above on the Amazon walled garden. 99% of potential customers don't give a slap about that.

  11. Richard Parkin

    WH Smith, the former bookshop

    WH Smith, the former bookshop now stationery, videos etc and the sort of books you can buy in a supermarket.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Books are a core department for WH Smiths, as is stationary and news, but videos?? Smiths been pulling out of that market for years an next time your in Tesco go pick up The lord of the rings trilogy, an the follow up titles? cant find them? ok how about the Andy McNabs book from last year that your uncle has wanted for xmas? nope? Supermarkets will do well for a select few titles that are often less than cost price for the simple reason that it gets you in to that shop to do your weekly shopping of which said supermarket will more than make up for the lost margin on the book through the higher margins on the foodstuffs, but they are not good for older titles, the range is poor. everything has a place.

  12. Anonymous Coward 99

    Not a threat to Kindle?

    I can see Amazon wanting to embrace this - If Kindles are being sold below cost, why not? The question is who will Smiths lock out to protect THEIR book business.

  13. JDX Gold badge

    @Voland's right hand

    I don't think many see WHSmith as synonymous with foreign-language texts. Outside the English speaking world, I don't doubt there are more opportunities - but in the UK itself I doubt it. We know the vast majority don't care about lock-in, only price, UX and convenience. Amazon have gone the opposite route from Apple with their pre-Fire devices and got the same result - a VERY slick product that non-techies buy in their droves.

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