Walmart ebooks are the plot twist Amazon didn't expect

Billionaire Hiroshi Mikitani chairman and chief executive officer of Rakuten Inc. and representative director of the Japan Association of New Economy speaks at the opening of the New Economy Summit 2015 in Tokyo Japan on Tuesday

U.S. retail giant Walmart and Japanese internet titan Rakuten unveiled a strategic partnership which will include collaboration on digital books in the United States and grocery delivery in Japan.

Home to more than 75 million online shoppers, the country has the world's third biggest ecommerce market after the USA and China.

The move, announced Friday, will see Rakuten Inc. team up with Wal-Mart Stores Inc. subsidiary and supermarket chain Seiyu GK.

The new service will change Walmart's current online grocery delivery offering in Japan and will be known as "Rakuten Seiyu Netsuper".

Scott Hilton, chief revenue officer of Walmart's ecommerce business, said in a blog post that the deal "enables us to quickly and efficiently launch a full e-book and audiobook catalog on Walmart.com". "We look forward to expanding our grocery footprint in Japan and launching a new offering of eBooks and audiobooks for our customers in the U.S".

"As global leaders in e-commerce and offline shopping, Rakuten and Walmart are uniquely positioned to empower our customers around the world with innovative services", said Rakuten's CEO Hiroshi Mikitani.

The online grocery delivery service is set to launch later this year, replacing Wal-Mart's existing operation, Seiyu, which was rolled out by the US retail giant in 2000 and now has more than 1.8 million users.

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"We are excited to partner with Walmart because of its commitment to creating the best solutions to serve customers with low prices". The joint venture will include the creation of a fulfillment center dedicated to grocery delivery as well as equipping Seiyu stores to make deliveries.

Wal-Mart is not the only big name USA company looking for partners in Asia, as it emerged Thursday that grocery giant Kroger (KR) and Chinese e-commerce heavyweight Alibaba (BABA) have recently chatted about potentially working together.

Furthermore, the new service will utilize Rakuten's deep expertise in e-commerce to offer a site with an optimized user experience, as well as leveraging big data and AI to offer a more personalized merchandise offering.

The Rakuten partnership will also see Walmart selling 6 million e-books and audiobooks offered by Kobo, Rakuten's subsidiary, on its US stores, giving the retailer a grip on what has traditionally been a market led by Amazon. What that means is, over 4,000 Walmart stores will start offering Kobo e-readers as well as access to almost six million e-book titles and audiobooks.

Walmart said it will sell Rakuten's Kobo e-readers and content in the U.S., as well as jointly launch a grocery delivery service in Japan.

The deal will give Walmart's United States customers access to Rakuten Kobo's six million ebooks and audiobooks.

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