TOKYO, Nov. 15 (Kyodo) — Rakuten Inc. will start selling its Kobo electronic book readers at bookstores in eastern and central Japan on Friday, an executive of the major online shopping mall operator said Wednesday.

Hiroyuki Nagai, a Rakuten operating officer, said in an interview with Kyodo News that the company has agreed with bookstore operator Top Culture Co. in Niigata to sell the Kobo readers, including the new Kobo Glo model priced at 7,980 yen, in nine outlets.

The readers made by a Canadian e-book marketer that is a Rakuten subsidiary have been sold online and at electric appliance retailers.

"We will provide bookstore visitors who love reading with the option of electronic books, in addition to conventional paper books," Nagai said.

He said the entire book market including e-books and paper books is expected to expand, as the number of extensive readers will likely increase with the spread of the handy devices that make book purchases easy.

Nagai said Rakuten prioritizes making e-book services familiar to consumers in Japan over competing with rival e-book marketers such as U.S. online retail giant Inc., saying the Japanese electronic book market is still "in the initial stage."

Amazon will release its Kindle Paperwhite electronic book reader next Monday.