German bookstore chains Thalia, Weltbild and Hugendubel have partnered with Bertelsmann and Deutsche Telekom to release a touchscreen, front-lit e-reader, the Tolino Shine. It costs €99 (USD $128), is available for sale on March 7 and is intended to compete against Amazon’s Kindle (s AMZN) and the Kobo in Germany. The Tolino will be sold at the partners’ 1,500 physical stores as well as online.
An ebookstore with about 300,000 German-language titles is accessible from the device. Users can also shop for ebooks from the individual booksellers’ websites. (By contrast, the German Kindle store contains about 150,000 German-language ebooks.) The Shine supports EPUB, PDF and TXT files. The Telekom cloud provides users with unlimited storage of ebooks they purchase from the partners, and 25 GB of storage for ebooks bought from other retailers. The telecommunications provider also has over 11,000 free Wi-Fi hotspots in Germany.
The German tech industry body BITKOM estimated last fall that 800,000 e-readers were sold in Germany in 2012, and it expects that to rise to 1.4 million units in 2013. Today’s press release announcing the new device also says that about 11 percent of Germans read ebooks on mobile devices.
The companies involved in the deal suggest that, while Amazon is too large a competitor for any one of them to go up against, by banding together they have a better chance. In the press release, Thalia CEO Michael Busch describes such a partnership as “unseen before” and says: “Every company has to consider its strategic approach and interests and choose the partners that will serve these interests best in order to compete with the mighty U.S. online retailer giants.”*
“The aim of the partnership is to create a competitive, single internet platform for digital products, especially for digital reading,” Weltbild’s Carol Haff told German book trade publication Buchreport.
*I relied primarily on Google Translate and also received assistance from a couple of German speakers.
This story was updated several times Friday morning as more information became available.