The Amazon of Japan Buys the Kindle of Canada

Kobo, the runner-up e-reader after Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook, has been acquired by Rakuten for $315 million in cash.

Rakuten is a dominant e-commerce company in Japan, but also operates internationally through other brands, including in the U.S. It said the acquisition of Kobo will assist the company in its move to provide downloadable media to consumers, starting with e-books.

More details were revealed this afternoon in a conference call with Hiroshi Mikitani, chairman and CEO of Rakuten, and Kobo CEO Michael Serbinis.

In response to my question on the call, Serbinis said Rakuten will give Kobo the financial backing and market reach to grow internationally, as well as compete in the U.S., where he says the device has achieved high single-digit market share.

“The U.S. is absolutely important. It’s fundamental. We have millions of U.S. users today, and we plan to grow that substantially, and internationally represents a big opportunity as well,” Serbinis said.

Upon closing the acquisition, Kobo said it will continue to maintain its headquarters, management team and employees based in Toronto, Canada.

Kobo, which turns two next month, had recently raised $50 million in capital from investors, including Indigo Books & Music and Cheung Kong Holdings. Indigo says it will take home about $140 million from the transaction, which represents a return of more than 300 percent.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work