Kobo

Kobo: technology takes a back seat in the e-book game

27 August 2014

From The Telegraph:

For years, people have been forecasting the death of the e-reader. Ever since more flashy, multi-function tablets became mainstream – prompted by the launch of Apple’s iPad in 2010 – black-and-white e-readers with their matt e-ink screens have come to be seen as poor relations.

. . . .

However, the e-books industry is a lucrative one. The publishing industry as a whole is valued at about $100 billion, and e-books acount for about $14.5 billion of that, with the number expected to reach over $22 billion by 2017.

While many of these e-books are read via apps on smartphones and tablets, there remains a core group of passionate book lovers which contines to champion e-readers, claiming that e-ink screens are easier to read in sunlight and are less likely to cause eye-strain than the LCD displays commonly used in tablets.

. . . .

Michael Tamblyn, president and chief content officer at Kobo, said that the company felt that it had tapped into “the summit of the reading market”.

“People who are especially passionate about a particular segment of media are willing to invest in the best possible experience of that media. So someone who is passionate about music will have invested in the best set of headphones they can possibly get,” he said.

“We look at Aura HD as being similar to that music fan who has just bought a £170 set of headphones. It’s a case of, here is this thing that I love more than anything else, how can I make sure it’s as good as it can possibly be?”

The latest figures from Ofcom show that Amazon has a dominant 79 per cent share of the e-book market in the UK. Apple’s ibookstore the second most-used e-book platform with 9 per cent market share, and Google’s search engine was the third most popular platform, used by 8 per cent of people. Kobo, offered through WHSmith, had only 5 per cent, while book chain Waterstones recorded only 3 per cent.

. . . .

“It’s certainly helped that we have one of the largest catalogues of e-books in the world, and have treated this whole endeavour as much more a challenge of bookselling than a challenge of technology,” he said.

“Our most valuable customers are people who read on both an e-ink device and on a third party device that they also own. The e-ink device is what they have by the bedside, but they’ll also pull a smartphone out when they’re waiting in a line at the bank, and open up an app that picks up at the same point that they set it down at home.”

Tamblyn said that he still lives by the maxim that most reading takes place in the five Bs – backyard, bus, bed, bath and beach.

Link to the rest at The Telegraph and thanks to Peter for the tip.

Kobo president questions Amazon’s tactics in dispute with publishers

16 August 2014

From The Financial Post:

The president of Toronto-based e-book retailer Kobo Inc. is calling out Amazon.com over its pricing dispute with a book publisher, saying the e-commerce giant’s tactics are placing the pursuit of profits above its customers’ interests.

Michael Tamblyn said Amazon’s recent moves against Hachette Book Group — including halting pre-orders of some books, and delaying shipments or paring discounts on others — restricts the selection available to consumers over what “could have been a private set of negotiations between a retailer and a supplier.”

“Unfortunately, it ends up being the consumers who get hurt on this… It means that books that could be reaching customers are not because of actions that Amazon has taken,” said Mr. Tamblyn in an interview Thursday.

Mr. Tamblyn said he is not taking sides in the months-long dispute.

. . . .

Kobo, which was purchased by Japanese retailer Rakuten in November 2011, is in the midst of its own dispute over e-book pricing in Canada.

. . . .

In March, Kobo and its former owner, Indigo Books & Music Inc., challenged a deal struck by the Canadian Competition Bureau and four major e-book publishers to remove restrictions on retail discounting.

In its appeal, it argued that Kobo would be “irreparably harmed” if the Feb. 7 decision signed by the watchdog and Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Macmillan and Simon Schuster was not rescinded.

The agreement was aimed at lowering prices of digital reading material for consumers by as much as 20% by scrapping clauses in distribution agreements that prohibited discounting and set similar prices between retailers.

Link to the rest at The Financial Post and thanks to Shaun for the tip.

Hugh Howey in Conversation

4 July 2014

From Kobo Writing Life:

At a recent visit to Kobo’s home office in Toronto, Hugh Howey was interviewed by KWL Director Mark Lefebvre in front of an audience of about 150 people (60 of which were local Kobo Writing Lifeauthors) for a Kobo in Conversation video.

Here are some highlights from the discussion.

. . . .

  • Hugh talks about how interesting it is that history re-writes itself to fit the model of what people think happened – his first book was actually signed to a small press before he made the decision to try the self-publishing route
  • Hugh also reflects on how, in 2009, he was only concentrating on print books and traditional contracts for the first book, but then noticed his eBook sales were overtaking his print book sales
  • How Hugh was pressured by friends and family to get his book out to publishers so they could see it in bookstores

. . . .

  • How Hugh acquired “sequelitis” after finishing that first novel, and how, when you keep writing sequels you’re left always promoting your first book

. . . .

  • The importance to not run from labels, like “self-published author” – Hugh is proud to call himself a self-published author
  • How H.M. Ward continues to turn down multiple 7 figure offers from publishers because their marketing plans aren’t offering anything she hasn’t already built for herself

Link to the rest at Kobo Writing Life

Breaking Free Part 2 – One Month Later

28 June 2014

From author Nick Stephenson:

I had a bunch of emails last time I posted on this subject, asking me to update how my adventures outside of KDP Select were going after a month – so, if you haven’t read the previous post, go check that out here.

For everyone else, here’s the skinny: From my very first book release in March 2013, there had always been a common trend. Book sales would spike massively around a promotion (usually Bookbub) and then fall right back down again within a few days. Not that I’m complaining, but my eventual goal was to try and keep sales consistently strong, rather than relying on a monthly spike in numbers and then thirty days of diddly-squat.

. . . .

So, I pulled my titles from KDP Select and uploaded them onto other vendors, then set my strongest-rated novel to permafree. I applied for a Bookbub free promotion, which went live on the 27th of June. The results have been better than I could have hoped. Sales have remained consistently higher for over a month, beating out my average daily revenue of $80 by a factor of four. This last month has easily been my strongest to date, and is set to overtake the $7,000 mark by the time July rolls round. And, best of all, sales on non-Amazon retailers make up a significant portion of that figure, and Amazon UK has opened up for the first time.

. . . .

I’ve also been extremely impressed with my first experiences with other retailers. iTunes has been easy to work with (despite it taking nearly a week to get a title approved), Nook was simple and fast (12 hours from submission to publication) and Kobo was a dream. Kobo were also kind enough to feature my permafree book as one of their “first free in series” titles, which gave my numbers there a little push. Kobo is now a nice little side earner – and the efforts these guys go to in order to accommodate indies is commendable – especially given the vacuum that opens up every time I try to email Apple or Barnes and Noble. Well done, Kobo!

Link to the rest, including sales charts at Nick Stephenson

The Ebooks Saga: Kobo’s Challenge Explained

3 May 2014

From Canadian law firm Affleck, Green, McMurty:

Ebook retailer Kobo is challenging a settlement entered into by the Competition Bureau with ebook publishers. The settlement has been stayed pending this challenge. Kobo‘s challenge may have major implications for competition law enforcement in Canada. Kobo‘s case also highlights a little-known area of risk that Canadian businesses face.

Canadians have taken to ebooks and ebook readers. They have many advantages, such as portability and the ability to buy and immediately download new books from nearly anywhere, at any time. But ebook customers cannot have failed to notice that ebooks are not much cheaper paperback books or sometimes even harcover books, even though the ebookscost less to produce and distribute than physical books.

Competition authorities in Canada, the United States, and Europe noticed this as well and investigated. They found that the replacement of a traditional wholesale price model with an “agency” model, where the publisher sets the retail price and charges a percentage of that price as the wholesale price, led to higher prices for ebooks.

. . . .

In Canada, ebook retailer Kobo is challenging the settlement. Kobo claims that the settlement changes the contracts that underpin its business and profitability. The Competition Tribunal has stayed the Canadian ebooks settlement pending Kobo’s challenge.

. . . .

Under the wholesale model, the publisher sells the book to the retailer, who then sells it for whatever price it wants. When ebooks were first introduced, publishers typically set wholesale prices about 20% lower than for physical books. Amazon then started selling ebooks for $9.99. Publishers saw this as too low, and they said so. Some of them began to act in concert to protect the higher prices they charged for hardcover books, notably by releasing books in hardcover before releasing the ebook version, a tactic called “windowing”.

. . . .

Even before the case against Apple went to trial in the US, the publishers reached settlements with US and EU competition authorities. Apple settled in the EU but not in the US.

The settlements, broadly speaking, were substantially the same on both sides of the Atlantic: the publishers agreed to end retail price restrictions and MFN clauses.

The Canadian settlement is also similar. The consent agreement prohibits the publishers from imposing retail prices on retailers. Publishers can still set suggested retail prices, but, with one narrow exception, cannot prevent retailers from selling below the suggested retail prices.

A key feature of the ebooks case is that it involves both horizontal and vertical restraints. The horizontal restraint is the agreement between ebook publishers to impose vertical restraints on retailers. The vertical restraints prevent price competition by retailers, a practice known as price maintenance. The ebooks settlements attack the vertical restraints that flow from the horizontal agreement. The anti-competitive conduct that provides the basis for the enforcement action appears to be the horizontal agreement, however.

The Canadian ebooks settlement is based on an anti-competitive horizontal agreement. The settlement recites an allegation by the Competition Bureau that ebook publishers entered into an agreement that lessened or prevented competition substantially in the market for ebooks.

. . . .

Kobo argues that its contracts with the four publishers, Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Macmillan, and Simon & Schuster, will be fundamentally altered or terminated because of the settlement, and that it will lose money. Kobo claims that a similar settlement in the US led it to close a US office and refocus on other markets. Kobo claims that it also led another ebook company, Sony, to exit the market, and caused Barnes & Nobles’ “NOOK” ebook division to become unprofitable.

The settlements led publishers to replace the agency model with the so-called “agency lite” model. The agency lite model is essentially the same as the agency model with most of the restrictions on retail price reductions removed. Thus publishers continue to establish a retail price, and are paid a wholesale price based on a discount from the retail price. The key difference is that retailers are free to price below the suggested retail price. The wholesale price does not change, however, even if retailers decrease retail prices. This, Kobo complains, means that retailers bear the losses associated with competition in the marketplace, while publishers’ margins remain protected.

Kobo says that unlike in the US, the shift to agency in Canada was not driven by a conspiracy among publishers, but rather, by Kobo itself in its negotiations with publishers.

Link to the rest at Affleck, Green, McMurty and thanks to Felix, who suggests this may indicate that Kobo was involved in a Canadian price-fixing conspiracy, for the tip.

Toronto-based e-reader Kobo lays off 63 people

25 April 2014

From The Toronto Star:

Toronto-based e-reader company Kobo laid off 63 people on Thursday, only a few weeks after appointing a new president, amid what it called “organizational changes.”

“To focus resources on innovation, partners, and readers, the leadership team has realigned the organization’s structure, which has also meant some staff reductions,” René d’Entremont, a Kobo public relations manager, told The Star.

“As part of this change, teams have been restructured and optimized; redeploying employees to best use their skills to support the company’s core goal of providing the best global eReading experience. All our offices will continue to operate as usual, with a mandate to grow the business in each of our territories.”

Founded in 2009, Kobo currently employs more than 400 people worldwide.

Link to the rest at The Toronto Star and thanks to William for the tip.

Kobo: Ending Agency Pricing Will Kill Us

17 March 2014

From The Digital Reader:

Canada’s Competition Bureau announced a settlement last month with 4 publishers to end agency pricing, but it looks like the process isn’t going to go as smooth as one might have expected.

Kobo has filed an objection to the consent decree, and they ask that the settlement be modified so that they are not negatively impacted by the sudden and radical change to the Canadian ebook market.

As part of their filing. Kobo revealed some rather telling details about their business. They blame the end of agency in the US for the loss of their market share, and they predict that the same will happen in Canada.

. . . .

In short, Kobo is saying that when Amazon was allowed to discount ebooks in the US, Kobo was unable to compete effectively, not even by means other than price (marketing, CS, features, community). This is rather curious because other companies, including Zola Books, The Reading Room, Bilbary, Oyster, and Scribd all seem to be able to compete effectively against Amazon in the US ebook market.

. . . .

On a related note, if Kobo has only a negligible market share in the US then I have to wonder whether their partners at the ABA, and its IndieBound program, are beginning to regret betting on the losing horse.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

Ebook company Kobo replaces its CEO

5 February 2014

From GigaOm:

Canadian ebook company Kobo, which was acquired by Japanese retail giant Rakuten in 2011, is replacing its founder and CEO Michael Serbinis with a Japanese executive, the company announced Tuesday. Takahito “Taka” Aiki, who was the CEO of Rakuten’s telecom company Fusion Communications, steps into the new role effective immediately, while Serbinis remains involved with the company as vice chairman.

According to Kobo’s announcement, Aiki “was responsible for the online business of Japan’s top bookstore and video rental company Tsutaya, where he helped grow its online membership by 250% in only two years” — though his LinkedIn profile says that was from 2002 to 2004, long before the rise of ebooks.

. . . .

Kobo didn’t provide a reason why Serbinis is stepping down. But the company’s share of the ebook market in the U.S. is far behind that of Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Apple. The company has largely focused on an international strategy of partnering with local bookstore chains to sell its e-readers, which may be increasingly difficult as Kindle availability expands abroad rapidly.

Link to the rest at GigaOm

Infinite Shades of Grey – Kobo Talks about Self-Publishing Take-down

27 November 2013

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Thanks to David for the tip.

Kobo launches e-book readers, tablet in India

2 November 2013

From The Times of India:

Canada based company Kobo and Crossword Bookstores has ventured into the Indian market with a range of ebook readers and tablets. The line-up consists of Kobo Touch, Kobo Glo and Kobo Aura HD ebook readers and the Kobo Arc tablet. These products will compete against Amazon’s range of Kindle devices in the country.

. . . .

Kobo’s new ebook readers and tablets will be available in retail locations across India in partnership with Crossword. Readers will also have access to Kobo’s eBookstore, which has approximately 4 million titles across 68 languages and offers 95% of India’s bestselling content. The online book store will provide buyers access to work from Indian as well as international bestselling authors.

Link to the rest at The Times of India

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