The Kobo eReader is produced by Toronto-based company Kobo Inc.. The original version was released in mid-2010 and was marketed as a minimalist e-book reader. The Japanese conglomerate Rakuten bought control of Kobo in January 2012. Kobo uses an electronic ink screen. The LCD tablet versions were released in 2011 and 2012.
Rakuten, Inc. is a Japanese electronic commerce and Internet company based in Tokyo. Among its numerous online properties, its e-commerce platform Rakuten Ichiba is the largest e-commerce site in Japan and among the world’s largest by sales. The Japanese word rakuten means optimism. In 2012, the company's revenues totaled US$4.7 billion with operating profits of about US$770 million. In June 2013, Rakuten, Inc. reported it had a total of 10,351 employees worldwide.
In 2005, Rakuten started expanding outside Japan, mainly through acquisitions and joint ventures.
The group's 2010 annual report shows that its online shopping business, Rakuten Ichiba, was Japan's largest online shopping mall. As part of the group's globalization initiative, Rakuten Ichiba started offering international shipping. In 2010, Rakuten bought French online retailer Priceminister for €200 million and US-based Buy.com for US$250 million. The next year Rakuten launched Indonesia's Rakuten Belanja Online, and bought Brazilian e-commerce firm Ikeda, the German e-commerce start-up Tradoria and rebranded it Rakuten Deutschland, the UK online retailer and e-commerce marketplace Play.com and a minority stake in Russian online retailer Ozon.ru, dubbed 'Russia's Amazon'.
In 2012 Rakuten bought Canadian e-book reader company Kobo in January and in May announced that it was leading a consortium investing $100 million in the Pinterest picture sharing social network. Rakuten owns Wuaki.tv, a Spanish (Barcelona, Catalonia) video on demand (VOD) service/company that is one of the largest in Europe and the market leader in Spain, where it has over 600,000 registered users. By late 2012, Rakuten had also moved into online retail in Austria, Canada, Spain, Taiwan and Thailand and into the online travel markets in France — with Voyager Moins Cher.com — and China, Hong Kong, Korea and Taiwan — with its Tokyo-based international Rakuten Travel platform. In North America, Rakuten Golf made booking tee time online possible. In May 2013, Rakuten acquired a majority share in “citizen commerce” site, The Grommet. In June 2013, Rakuten announced its acquisition of U.S.-based logistics and services company Webgistix.