Rakuten Acquires OverDrive for $410 Million, Launches Bitcoin Acceptance

March 19, 2015

Rakuten Acquires OverDrive for $410 Million, Launches Bitcoin Acceptance Japanese Internet services company Rakuten made two major announcements this week. Just this morning, Rakuten acquired OverDrive, an online marketplace for ebooks, audiobooks and music based in Cleveland, for $410 million. The Japanese company said digital content is one of three strategic areas—along with e-commerce and finance—it will use to expand its presence globally. OverDrive, founded in 1986, was one of the first companies to offer digital content at scale and Rakuten said it coveted the Ohio company’s library of 2.5 million titles and relationships with thousands of publishers and libraries.

“OverDrive is a widely respected pioneer in digital content and the sharing economy. Long before even Kobo emerged onto the global stage, OverDrive had already seen the future and was working with publishers to digitize their content to share with the world, building one of the most comprehensive online digital marketplaces in the process,” said Takahito Aiki, head of Rakuten’s global eBook business. “OverDrive’s deep content library and relationships with publishers, libraries, schools, and retailers will allow Rakuten to extend our mission of empowerment to new market segments and accelerate the growth of our digital contents businesses.”

On Tuesday, in a separate announcement, Rakuten said it will begin accepting Bitcoin as a payment method on its global online marketplaces. The company is working with digital currency processor Bitnet to roll out the service starting in the U.S. on Rakuten.com. After the U.S., Rakuten will continue the rollout by integrating its German and Austrian e-commerce sites.

For the past year, big companies announcing Bitcoin acceptance have generally enjoyed an initial surge of purchases from passionate Bitcoin enthusiasts, settling down eventually to a small but steady number of transactions per month. Merchants interested in leveraging the low cost of Bitcoin acceptance are hoping consumer mass adoption begins to rise. Rakuten understands it will need to help that process along, Fumio Kobayashi, president Rakuten.com, the company’s U.S. e-commerce site, told CardNotPresent.com.

“Rakuten.com will roll out onsite and [run] promotional campaigns designed to encourage our everyday shoppers to try Bitcoin payments,” said Kobayashi. “These types of campaigns will continue throughout the course of the year to encourage adoption and repeat usage.”