Sainsbury’s has acquired a 64% shareholding in eBook library start-up Anobii from beleaguered music chain HMV, which is eager to scale back its portfolio as it seeks to reverse its flagging fortunes.
Anobii’s other shareholders – publishers Penguin, HarperCollins and Random House – will each retain their current interest.
Founded in 2006 and headquartered in London, Anobii – derived from Anobium Punctatum, the latin for 'bookworm' – currently provides a repository for 60,000 eBooks, and a social network for more than 600,000 enthusiasts. The company received investment from HMV Group and the aforementioned publishing houses in June 2010.
Matteo Berlucchi, CEO and founder of live video streaming company Livestation, remains in situ and earlier hailed the news on Twitter, posting "Great news for the UK ebook market. Sainsbury's is our new shareholder!"
Alongside him is former European vice-president for Amazon Simon Murdoch, who started online bookseller Bookpages, before selling to Amazon. Murdoch has since taken a variety of non-exec or chairman roles with fast-growing digital companies Shazam, Zoopla, Shutl, and Profitero, as well as making a number of angel investments.
Mark Bennett, head of digital entertainment at Sainsbury’s, described Anobii’s use of social media as “a clear differentiator”, adding that the acquisition “shows our commitment to becoming a key player in the digital entertainment market.”
It is thought that Sainsbury’s is keen to take on Amazon in the eBook marketplace, which, according to the Publishers Association, grew by 366% in 2011.