UK supermarket chain Tesco, already a mover in the ebook and digital content space through the release in September of its well-regarded Hudl budget Android tablet, is now on track to roll out the corresponding ebookstore with the launch of Blinkbox Books in March, if an early report by The Bookseller is to be believed.
As yet, the Blinkbox website does offer only movies and TV, and still foregrounds “your SmartTV, Xbox 360,iPad, Blu-rays, Set-top boxes, PC or Mac or TV connected to your PC or Mac,” as the main platforms to watch these, though Android and iOS apps are highlighted elsewhere. According to The Bookseller‘s interpretation, this represents a significant delay and setback for Tesco’s ebook plans, with rival chain Sainsbury’s already a player in the UK ebook business. Whether that’s actually so is a different question. Tesco operates precisely in the realm of spontaneous purchase decisions and rapid transfer of customer loyalties, after all, and the absence of a Tesco-branded ebook platform doesn’t seem to have hurt the Hudl’s sales at all.
In fact, if anything seems to have caught the imagination of UK consumers in the supermarket ebook retail space, it’s the Hudl. Reports elsewhere indicate that the Hudl has shifted 300,000 units since launch, far in advance of Tesco’s own expectations, and has already gone out of stock twice in the UK in the runup to Christmas. “Hudl has been so popular that unfortunately we’ve sold out online,” reads the Tesco Hudl site apologetically. “We’re working hard to get more stock in before Christmas.”
And I wouldn’t be surprised if negative publicity against Amazon and Kobo in the UK over tax evasion and porn sales prompts many consumers to go Tesco instead. At this rate, Tesco can afford to wait and get all its ducks in a row for the eventual launch of the ebook service, while the competition kills itself through discounting wars. As a significant presence in the UK ereader landscape, it’s already there.