Sainsbury's enters e-book market with Anobii purchase

Move over Amazon: this supermarket monolith wants a piece of the e-book pie...

by Michael Northcott
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013

The book publishing industry has seen enormous change in recent years thanks to the advent of the e-book, but in a move typical of the ‘sell a bit of everything’ approach adopted by the major supermarkets, Sainsbury’s has acquired HMV’s stake in book-selling social network website, Anobii.

It is difficult to gauge what kind of an investment this is, however, since the purchase only cost Sainsbury’s a quid (literally £1) and puts the supermarket in business with HarperCollins, Penguin and Random House Group, all of which retain stake holdings in the site. Margins in e-books must be even thinner than on a twelve pack of super strength lager…

The service currently has more than 600,000 users and a library of around 60,0000 e-books it is licensed to sell. In a statement, Sainsbury’s made a vague assertion that it will have a 64% share of the company ‘as a result of the transaction and Sainsbury’s investment in the future development in the business.’

Sainsbury’s added that the acquisition is part of a wider strategy to enhance its digital offerings. The retailer has spent the last couple of years getting into the entertainment business, have bought online media website Global Media Vault in October 2011, and also announcing the launch of a music download service earlier this year through its Sainsbury’s Entertainment brand. The series of moves puts the firm in direct competition with such major players as iTunes and Spotify, as well as other retailers such as Tesco and Dixons, which are also attempting to enter the digital media space.

It remains to be seen what the effect of this media diversification will be for a major supermarket, but with such financial might now behind it, this e-book service could make reading material yet another essential part of the weekly shop. 

Perhaps the folks over at Amazon should think about starting to sell groceries. Oh, wait, they already do…

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