By Ingrid Lunden
Another development in the UK market for e-readers, tablets and e-books as Amazon (AMZN) and Barnes & Noble (BKS) move closer to launching more of their services and devices in the UK and Europe: the retail giant Tesco (TESO) has purchased Mobcast, a digital bookseller co-founded by pulp fiction writer Andy McNab. Tesco tells TechCrunch that the price of the acquisition is $7.2 million.
Tesco notes that Mobcast has a catalog of some 130,000 books, but the main idea behind this acquisition for Tesco, already one of the biggest booksellers in the UK, will be to give Tesco its own digital book distribution platform, including cloud-based storage for the books. "They provide excellent end-to-end service, from injecting the material from publishers all the way to retail to customers," the spokesperson told TechCrunch.
One of the big benefits of Mobcast, which first entered the market in 2007, is that it is available across all major mobile platforms. Tesco also already sells the Kindle from Amazon among its wide range of other consumer electronics.
The deal comes on the heels of Tesco buying movie and TV streaming service blinkbox in 2011 and Internet radio service WE7 in June 2012.
"We want our customers to have the widest choice in digital entertainment. We are already one of the UK's largest booksellers and Mobcast will help us offer even more choice for the large and growing number of customers who want to buy and enjoy books on their digital devices whenever and wherever they want," said Michael Comish, CEO Tesco Digital Entertainment, in a statement announcing the deal.
Mobcast co-founder and CEO Tony Lynch (understandably, given how huge Tesco is) points to how this will give Mobcast much wider exposure in the UK market: "We are delighted the products that Mobcast has developed will now be used to introduce the joys of eBook reading to more book lovers in the UK," he said.
Given that the site was co-founded by bestselling author McNab, it seems like a perfect fit for Tesco, a purveyor of mainstream titles. McNab highlights the cloud-portability element of the deal: "As an author I always thought the ability to carry your library around and read on all your personal devices would be a huge benefit to all. We have developed a product that makes this possible, and being acquired by Tesco ensures that this original vision will be available to as many people as possible."
What's not clear is how this deal will affect existing business for Mobcast, which works with operators like Singtel, Everything Everywhere (T-Mobile and Orange in the UK) and Nokia to power e-bookstores.
Nor is it clear yet when Tesco will integrate all of its current catalog on to the Mobcast site, and whether the platform will be used for more than just books. Or whether the acquisition will mean that Tesco will pre-load the app on to devices that it sells, rather than simply using it as a part of its already-extensive e-commerce operation, which includes online ordering and delivery of groceries, electronics, and much more, which it uses to complement a massive, Walmart-style physical operation.
We are asking Tesco and Mobcast about these details and will update as we learn more.