Kobo CEO Replaced by Rakuten Executive

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Kobo announced on Tuesday that company founder and CEO Michael Serbinis was stepping down and would be replaced by Japanese executive Takahito “Taka” Aiki, effective immediately. Aiki formerly served as CEO of Fusion Communications, a telecom subsidiary of Rakuten, Kobo’s parent company. Kobo was acquired by Rakuten in 2011.

Serbinis will continue with Kobo as vice chairman, reported the Financial Post. Aiki said in a statement, “I am excited to be joining Kobo, one of Canada’s most prominent brands and a true innovator in eReading. The Kobo team is extremely talented and, working together, I look forward to driving Kobo’s leadership in eReading.” American Booksellers Association CEO Oren Teicher noted to BTW that the association was working with Kobo to schedule an opportunity to meet the new Kobo CEO as soon as possible.

In a related story, on Thursday, February 6, Sony Electronics and Kobo announced that users in the U.S. and Canada of Sony’s Reader and Xperia tablet and smartphone would be able to access and purchase content from Kobo’s catalog of more than four million eBooks, magazines and newspapers, graphic novels, and children’s content.

In a statement, the companies noted that Sony’s Reader Store customers and their current eBook libraries will transfer to the Kobo ecosystem starting in late March. Reader Store customers will be able to take advantage of Kobo’s new dedicated Kids Store and magazine experience, and will have full access to purchase the most popular bestsellers.

“With a shared philosophy to deliver the best reading experience across platforms and with the best content available, Kobo and Sony will reach more people than ever before,” said the newly appointed Aiki. “Together, millions of customers across the U.S. and Canada will find their next great read at their fingertips — any time, any place, and on any device.”

Ken Orii, vice president of the Digital Reading Business Division, Sony Electronics, said, “Kobo is the ideal solution for our customers and will deliver a robust and comprehensive user experience. Like Sony, they are committed to those most passionate about reading and share our vision to use open formats so people can easily read anytime and anywhere.”

Regarding the transition, the companies noted in a statement that the free Kobo App for Android will be pre-loaded on select Sony Xperia smartphones and tablets. Timing and availability may vary by market and carrier. Sony’s WiFi Reader will also be able to access the content available via the Kobo eBookstore. Sony’s current Reader Store customers in the U.S. and Canada will have access to the Kobo eBookstore starting in late March via “a simple and easy migration process,” according to the statement, and Sony’s Reader Store will close in late March. Reader Store customers will receive an e-mail from Sony with instructions on how to transfer their library to a Kobo account. Until that time, Sony’s customers can continue to purchase eBooks from Sony’s Reader Store.