Home » Ebooks, Kobo » ‘End of the beginning for e-books’ says Tamblyn

‘End of the beginning for e-books’ says Tamblyn

4 March 2016

From The Bookseller:

Kobo c.e.o Michael Tamblyn says the industry is reaching the “end of the beginning for e-books”.

Speaking at the IPG Spring Conference yesterday (2nd March) Tamblyn highlighted the “steady state” of digital sales in the publishing industry, with e-book sales now “cruising nicely” between 20% and 30% of all book sales, he said. This has meant Kobo has been able to “take a bit of a breath” and consider its position as a digital retailer that “thinks about the reader and what they want,” Tamblyn added.

The new Kobo chief said the industry needed to let go of “preconceptions about what the reader is”, explaining that the demographic of people who use Kobo products are mainly “silver foxes”, with over 50% of Kobo’s readers over 55-year-old and 30% retired.

“People 55 and over are leading a digital charge for the first time”, he said. “That kind of understanding of what that customer looks like changes everything for us.”

Tamblyn said he was not worried about the demographic featuring mainly older people as “it seems more like there are times when people have more time in their life to read, and time when they don’t. It’s a conveyor belt that brings new recruits all the time. People make more time for reading as they get older.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Ebooks, Kobo

29 Comments to “‘End of the beginning for e-books’ says Tamblyn”

  1. I for one (and it seems Amazon) welcome this ‘End of the beginning for e-books’ that the traditional publishers and their lapdogs think they are seeing.

    While they pretend their Titanic isn’t starting to list dangerously to port, Amazon seems to be selling several times more ebooks than the qig5 admit their agency pricing is getting them.

    Someone needs to send ‘Kobo c.e.o Michael Tamblyn’ the link for Author Earnings and see if he still thinks there’s any ““steady state” of digital sales in the publishing industry”.

    Though maybe he has seen it and to not scare off stockholders he needs to pretend he hasn’t …

    • I took it to mean that ebooks are not ‘new’ anymore. That they’ve reached the stage where they are now maturing and accepted as a matter of course for many people. Kind of like how cellphones were around in the late 90s, but most people didn’t embrace them until the early 2000s, at which point they spread to where almost everyone has one.

      The way he words it though, at first made me think he was saying it was ‘the beginning of the end’, instead of what he actually said, ‘the end of the beginning.’.

  2. It’s a shame Kobo won’t step up to compete with Amazon.

    It makes the decision to go all in with Amazon that much easier.

    Don’t businesses like KOBO and BN realize they need to come up with something to tempt authors away from Amazon Exclusivity? Amazon was smart by getting the majority of authors on their site.

    It is short sighted (for KOBO and BN et al) to do nothing. Their websites are crap, they don’t do anything to help indie authors. Don’t they realize that without authors, they’ve got nothing?

    • There IS something. WMG’s Fiction River has a special edition on several issues. But it feels like it was a tad obscure.

      Take care

      • Laura Montgomery

        What did that involve?

        • Extra content. As a subscriber, I also had access to that, but I don’t know how much (and I can’t quite check right now; a couple extra short stories, I’d say, trying to guess from memory) nor do I know what allowed them to reach the agreement.

          Take care.

  3. I hope he uses this “breather” wisely. Kobo has so much potential as the e-book portal for so many independent bookstores, but they do it so poorly that so few want to leap through that portal to enter Kobo cyber-space.

    Maybe he needs to spend the day reading some good sci-fi tales about portals and get ideas on how to make them enticing. You want people to say, “I really want to jump in there and explore.” Not for folks to yawn at your site or miss the obscure link on some bookstore’s website. Get with it, Kobo!

  4. The new Kobo chief said the industry needed to let go of “preconceptions about what the reader is”, explaining that the demographic of people who use Kobo products are mainly “silver foxes”, with over 50% of Kobo’s readers over 55-year-old and 30% retired.

    So why would those of us not writing to the ‘silver fox’ market want to use Kobo to publish? Interesting that they got so specific as to what their main demographic is.

    • Perhaps folks like me buy the Kobo out of a sense of misguided nationalism, then decide to switch to Kindle for the better pricing and selection.
      I gave the Kobo to my mother so she could read her bible with adjustable font size and also avoid the paper dust that makes her cough so much (that’s the ‘smell of books’ that folks are always going on about…)

  5. When your company is failing and you’re at the top, silly and quixotic things will often come out of your mouth.

    • Felix J. Torres

      Do you have any specific red flags you can share about Kobo failing?
      I see a handful myself so I’m curious to see if they’re the same.

      • Their web page is pretty sad. Look at the reviews for the Kobo H2O. A. there aren’t very many, which indicates a real lack of social media/online marketing expertise or effort B. The positive reviews are by people who are thrilled to have an ereader that’s waterproof. Nothing says “Silver Fox market” like a hip entertainment device that can survive water aerobics. C. There are several one-star reviews that hate them. While the website gets points for honesty, it’s amazing they can’t pay an English major minimum wage womake any customer support noises or apologies.

        I dunno… I expect a tech company that makes a communication device to use existing technology to communicate.

      • I guess I’d go by my sales more than anything.

        This month my D2D shares were Kobo $10, Apple $65 and B&N $51. Maybe other authors get a lot of sales on Kobo. Compared to the other retailers that pay me, however, Kobo is falling behind.

        • Felix J. Torres

          Ah, I see.
          I’m looking for confirmation of a few hints here and there that Rakuten is disappointed with Kobo and, if I’m reading the tea leaves correctly, they don’t see a bright future for them.

          Then there is the fact that their core customer acquisition model sucks rivets. No tea leaves needed there.

          • They added more executives in January, and they have a slick artsy writing lifestyle with big pictures web page… But their Facebook page is a marketing train wreck of unanswered customer complaints nested in the interstices of “engagement provoking” topical web posts. (Has a photo: check. Is in the form of a question: check. Concerns current events: check.). I wonder if they outsourced it to some social media firm…

  6. So it’s probably not the end of days then, and probably not the end of the industry as we know it, but for e-books, it’s probably the end of the beginning, and I think that’s okay. We now have four ways to sell a book: bricks and mortar, print, audiobook and e-book, and none of them are going anywhere.

    It sounds to me like he is saying that ebooks are here to stay. Almost as though he were countering the “resurgence of print” meme that trad pub pundits were trumpeting.

    Not quite sure why TPV commenters are dissing him.

    • Yeah, that was my take as well.

    • Sounds like a bag of mixed fruit. His four ways list a type of sales venue and three media formats. Probably should just say three ways.

      • Yes, I noticed that, too, and thought it was strange. Did he really mean venues for selling a book? In which case, there are two: brick-and-mortar vs online. Or did he mean formats? Paper, ebook, audiobook.

    • It might be the ‘way’ things were said, bits like the ‘steady state of digital sales’. If he thinks they are ‘steady’ then he’s not seeing anything but the trad-pubs’ worldview. If trad-pub is all he thinks he needs to concern himself and his company with then indie/self-pubs need to give him a miss and go where they might make sales.

      As this site claims to be:
      A Lawyer’s Thoughts on Authors, Self-Publishing and Traditional Publishing
      then you might see some ‘dissing’ by the members of those thought to have their heads buried in the sand.

      • I agree. I’m very, very, very disappointed to see an ereader seller and ebookstore operator apparently using data from a myopic industry to plan his company’s strategy.

        If trad pub ebook sales are 20% of trad pub sales, and indie ebook unit sales are roughly equal to trad pub ebook unit sales, and indie paper unit sales are insignificant, then ebook sales of the total market are 40/120 or 33% of the market. 40 units of ebook sales (20 trad + 20 indie) divided by 120 total unit sales (20 trad ebook + 20 indie ebook + 80 trad print).

        For 30% it’s 60/130 or 46%.

        If indie keeps growing…

        Kobo, the trad pub industry is not your industry. You don’t care how many paperbacks they sell. You care how many ebooks you sell. How can you make that number bigger? How can you expand beyond your silver-haired niche?

        • I’m very, very, very disappointed to see an ereader seller and ebookstore operator apparently using data from a myopic industry to plan his company’s strategy.

          Gotcha. Thanks for sharing your line of thought. I see your point.

        • He reminding me of a saying my mother’s favorite judge (Judge Judy) is always telling those in front of her: ‘If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember so much.’

          Poor Michael Tamblyn was trying so hard to word things around how things actually are that he made himself sound clueless.

  7. By the end of the article he actually states there’s enough room for all formats, but wading through the dross to get to that little gem was downright painful.

  8. “People 55 and over are leading a digital charge for the first time”, he said.

    Well, if you do the math people who are around 55ish were also the exact same people who were early in their careers when personal computers became popular. So maybe the 55+ demographic doesn’t lead digital change often, but that particular group of people certainly did.

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