Kobo, ABA Renew Partnership For Another Year Even Though Indie Booksellers aren’t Selling Many eBooks

28 July 2015

From The Digital Reader:

If you were surprised in late May when Kobo revived its defunct affiliate partnership with US indie booksellers then this next piece of news will knock your socks off.

Late last month the American Bookseller Association announced that its contract with Kobo was being extended for another year. Originally signed in 2012, that contract was set to last three years and included an automatic one year renewal clause, which has now gone into effect.

. . . .

According to the ABA’s Indiebound website, around 500 booksellers in the US (out of 1,700 or so ABA members) take part in the Kobo affiliate deal. It’s not known just how many ebooks they’re selling, but if a recent report in the Denver Post is any sign then this deal is not having much of an impact on the ebook market:

Eight years after Amazon released the first Kindle, surviving independent bookstores are now selling e-books — and finding that no one really wants the ones they’re offering.

“It’s not even a drop in the bucket really,” said Arsen Kashkashian, inventory manager at Boulder Bookstore. “Our sales are up for the year and they’re coming from physical books.”

Boulder Bookstore sells e-books through Kobo and was previously part of a Google eBook deal. But Kashkashian said neither deal was “any good.” He estimates the store has about 10 customers who regularly purchase e-books, with a few other occasional downloads.

“I don’t have exact numbers but let’s say we make $10 off each hardback copy of (Harper Lee’s “Go Set a Watchman”). E-books make 50 cents,” he said.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader and thanks to Michael for the tip.

Kobo Glo HD e-reader gives Kindle Voyage a run for its money

5 May 2015

From Mashable:

There are plenty of reasons to like Kobo, but the most compelling may be the simple fact that the company isn’t Amazon.

As chief competitors like Barnes & Noble and Sony have faded or altogether disappeared from the market, the plucky Canadian company (granted, one currently owned by a giant Japanese retailer) has made it a mission, year in and year out, to offer the best e-reader money can buy.

. . . .

Along the way, Kobo’s competitive streak has gone a ways toward pushing the whole industry forward, experimenting with screen size, upping the game on front-lit displays, introducing the concept of a truly high-end devoted e-reader and even going waterproof.

For its part, the Glo HD isn’t an attempt to push the envelope as much as it is a play to mainstream some of the premium specs it introduced with pricier models.

. . . .

Kobo has never been one to shy away from exploiting a perceived hole in the market. The company has seven models listed as currently available on its site, and as such, the Glo HD slots somewhere between Amazon’s Voyage and Paperwhite, bringing a high-res display, small footprint, slick design, and one important secret weapon: a $130 price tag that undercuts Amazon’s top-tier e-reader by $60 (or $80, if you factor in Special Offers ads).

Link to the rest at Mashable

Kobo has ‘no interest in fighting publishers’

30 April 2015

From The Bookseller:

Kobo has said it has “no interest in fighting publishers”, after signing its first publishing deal with journalist Kevin Donovan for a book about Canadian radio presenter Jian Gomeshi, who is currently awaiting trial for sexual assault.

The Canadian e-book retailer has signed world English language rights in print and digital to Jian Ghomeshi – Secret Life via Donovan’s agents Jesse Finkelstein and Samantha Haywood of Transatlantic Agency – in the first deal of its kind for the company.

While Kobo is publishing the title in digital on its platform, it is partnering with Canadian independent publisher ECW Press on a print edition of the book. The company also has press partners in the US and had “some preliminary discussions with publishers in the UK.”

Speaking about cutting its first professional publishing deal, Pieter Swinkels, Kobo vice president of publisher relations, told The Bookseller that the company saw itself as “enabler of publishing houses” and added “we support them, we have no interest in fighting them.” However, he also said that “publishing is a term that needs to be redefined” and while the company wasn’t looking to become a traditional publisher, it was hoping to “evolve the model” going forward.

He said: “Kobo is always looking to how we can improve, evolve and develop our platform for our readers. As we see how projects develop and publishing and bookselling models evolve, we are looking for our place to give our customers the support and experience. What we are looking for is not to become an traditional publisher, we are looking to evolve the model.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller and thanks to John for the tip.

Mixed Results for Bricks-and-Mortar Stores with Digital Content

26 January 2015

From Publishers Weekly:

For many bricks-and-mortar bookstores, 2014 was a banner year, helped by the overall improvement in the sale of print books. Some independents, such as BookPeople in Austin, Tex., and Titcomb’s Bookshop in East Sandwich, Mass., reported that they had their best year ever. Barnes & Noble’s physical stores reversed a downward trend and posted some gains for the nine-week holiday season, which ended January 3, compared to the similar period the previous year. But when it comes to digital, the results have been mixed. Holiday sales of digital content dropped 25% at B&N, and device and accessory sales fell even further, down 68%.

. . . .

Indies first dipped their toes in the digital waters in 2010 through an arrangement with Google. After that deal fell apart, the American Booksellers Association announced in August 2012 a three-year contract with Kobo and rolled out an e-book and device program to booksellers in time for the 2012 holiday season.

. . . .

Booksellers who want to offer their customers print and e-book options appreciate ABA’s support in the digital market, even though e-book sales have been far from vibrant. Hudson Group, which operates more than 65 bookstores at airports and train stations and sells books through several hundred newsstands, saw its e-book sales through IndieCommerce decline by 20% in 2014. But it has no plans to stop selling them. “It doesn’t cost us anything additional [to sell e-books],” said Sara Hinckley, v-p of book buying and promotions at Hudson. “And every sale helps. We do hope that the future will bring us better opportunities to become part of the e-book market.”

E-book sales were also down by double digits at Green Apple Books in San Francisco. “E-books are minimally profitable,” said co-owner Pete Mulvihill, whose digital content sales declined 18% in 2014. He’s scaling back his effort to sell digital content and devices, as the Kobo partnership, in his opinion, “loses steam.” But Mulvihill has no plans to give up e-books entirely. He views e-books, which represent less than 1% of store sales, as a service for customers who want to e-read and still support the bookstore.

. . . .

 Enthusiasm for devices has cooled at Village Books in Bellingham, Wash., despite 500 active e-book customers, according to events coordinator and eTeam leader Sam Kaas. “We continue to carry Kobo devices for the time being, although as return terms and support from Kobo have changed, we are reevaluating that,” he said. Last month the store sold 11 devices. On the other hand, e-book sales have remained steady. “E-books are profitable in terms of sales,” said Kaas, “especially since they do not take up space on our shelves or carry the risk of making us order and return multiple copies. However, if we need to provide instruction or service to customers, an hourly staffer’s time quickly becomes more expensive than the commission we make.”

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly and thanks to Timothy for the tip.

Why NOT self-publish exclusively through Amazon?

20 September 2014

From TeleRead:

Essentially, Amazon provides a number of added benefits and incentives to writers who publish exclusively via Amazon either temporarily or continually: free giveaway days, or inclusion in e-book subscription services such as the Kindle Owners Lending Library or Kindle Unlimited that pay a fee per checkout, for example. Amazon has allowed some top-selling authors, including Howey, to try the service out temporarily withoutgoing exclusive to see how the numbers stack up.

After a couple of months, Howey reports that the readership gains he’s seen from Kindle Unlimited “more than covered the readership I gain from the iBookstore, Nook, and Kobo combined.” He might be earning slightly less money, he writes, but gets considerably more fans out of it.

. . . .

I’d love to see some decent competitors to Amazon spring up, but at the moment, nobody really seems to be even trying to compete. Apple locks its books into one specific platform—and what’s more, it even requires writers to use that platform only if they want to upload their books directly rather than via an intermediary!

. . . .

Sony’s thrown in the towel. Barnes & Noble’s just taken a major step backward in consumer-friendliness. Kobo…well, the most I can say about Kobo is that I haven’t heard about them doing anything overtly stupid lately, but I haven’t heard about them doing anything especially smart lately either.

. . . .

The only answer I can come up with is to try to keep limits on Amazon’s power by supporting its competition. But is that really Howey’s job? Why should he be obligated to support a bunch of lackluster companies who don’t even seem to be interested in trying to compete themselves?

Link to the rest at TeleRead

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.

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