Ann Arbor, Mich. - Borders Group opened the virtual doors of its eBook store on Wednesday and announced plans to launch dedicated e-reader departments in almost all of its Borders superstores in early September.
The eBook store, created by global e-reading service Kobo, launched with more than 1.5 million titles, including thousands of free titles, in a variety of formats, including EPUB, mobile and PDF. The company is targeting a 17 percent share of the e-book market by this time next year.
In its brick-and-mortar Borders superstores, the company will open so-called "Area-e" sections where consumers will be able to try out and buy an expanded selection of e-readers. The sections will be staffed by what the company called "knowledgeable associates who will demo products and answer customers' questions." Each Area-e section will carry anywhere from seven to 10 e-readers, a spokesperson told TWICE.
Borders already sells the Kobo e-reader, two Sony e-readers and Aluratek's Libre eBook Reader Pro through
. The Sony models are also available through all Borders superstores and airport stores, and the Kobo model is currently in about 125 Borders superstores.
Borders Group operates more than 508 Borders superstores in the U.S. and three stores in Puerto Rico. The company also operates around 173 stores in its Waldenbooks Specialty Retail group, including Waldenbooks, Borders Express, and Borders airport stores.
While it prepares for the September e-Area launch, Borders Group plans by the end of this month to expand sales of its Kobo e-reader to "virtually all our stores chain wide," the spokesperson said. By Friday, the Kobo model will be in every Borders superstore and every airport store, and by July 23, it will be in every company-owned store, she pointed out.
The company might also roll out additional e-readers through its Waldens Specialty Retail outlets, she added.
The company started selling the Kobo and Libre in recent weeks and said both models, priced at less than $150, "have surpassed sales expectations." The Kobo e-reader is available at $149, and the Libre eBook Reader Pro retails for $119 on preorder for July 20 availability. The Sony Touch is available at $169, and the Sony Pocket retails for $149.
"The race to emerge as a retail leader within the digital category is just starting," said Borders CEO Mike Edwards "During the past several months, we've been carefully crafting a digital strategy, one that has great content and a device-neutral philosophy backed by the Borders brand as its cornerstones. We believe we are very well positioned to come out strong and to ultimately claim about a 17 percent e-book market share by this time next year."
With device neutrality in mind, the company announced the availability of its Kobo-developed e-reader application for BlackBerry and Android smartphones. The free apps, available for download at
, work with the BlackBerry Curve, Tour 9630 and Bold as well as Android devices. The apps let users browse, buy, download, and read e-books and search for books by title, author, topic or keyword. The apps follow the launch of Borders iPhone and iPad e-reader apps, also developed by Kobo.
is an e-book service backed by Indigo Books & Music, Borders Group, REDgroup Retail and Cheung Kong Holdings. The company's "Powered by Kobo" program is targeted to hardware manufacturers and retailers that want to launch e-readers or e-book stores. Kobo partners get access to a catalog of more than 2 million titles as well as applications for smartphones, netbooks, laptops, tablets and dedicated e-readers.