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Pieter Swinkels of Rakuten Kobo

8 October 2018

Pieter Swinkels is executive vice president for publisher relations and content with Rakuten Kobo.

From Publishing Perspectives:

Pieter Swinkels: In Kobo Writing Life, our self- and micro-publishing platform, we’ve seen an enormous growth in serialization and shorter episodes.

Not so much the short-form you’re probably referring too, though—the short-form initiatives we’ve seen from more traditional publishers have had uneven results across different markets.

In our ebook subscription services in the Netherlands, we’ve been very successful in creating series with shorter-than-usual books as episodes-in-a-series that we produced ourselves in our Originals program or in collaboration with publishers or producers.

Publishing Perspectives: Do you also see efforts by some publishing interests to cater particularly to consumers who may actively like long-form reading?

PS: Yes, we see experimentation from both independent and traditional publishers to create value bundles through bundling.

These are mostly promotional campaigns, and less so initiatives to create long-form reading experiences.

There’s a drive on, according to some observers, to find ways to make reading—which many say is on the decline in our contemporary cultures—more palatable by appealing to people who want to read short segments of things during their commutes, and so on.

PP: Have you seen examples of real success in this direction?

PS: First of all, people have never been reading as much as they are nowadays. It’s just that they’re not reading what the book industry creates for them. That’s a problem, but only to those working in that industry.

We fail as an industry to create readers for our content. That should be much more top-of-mind than it currently is. We allow other industries to cannibalize what used to be time devoted to books.

Clearly, the audiobook experience seems to compel readers back to “books.” That’s encouraging.

We’re also seeing fantastic engagement inside Kobo Plus, our ebook subscription service.

Series, in particular, replicate a binge-consumption behavior we know from other entertainment industries.

In my view, it points to the importance of lowering thresholds to enter reading and spending money on reading.

. . . .

PS: As a reading industry, we’ve only just begun to untie the knot that authors, agents, publishers, and retailers have pulled very tight for a long time. It all begins with creating a new dialogue of how we work together, and that must begin with trust.

Depending what market you look at, there very encouraging, early signs of a genuine willingness to approach the challenges in the reading business.

Having worked as a publisher before becoming responsible for the Kobo catalogue, I believe we need to start with the author and work our way back to all other parties involved to make the business models fit.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

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One Comments to “Pieter Swinkels of Rakuten Kobo”

  1. “PS: First of all, people have never been reading as much as they are nowadays. It’s just that they’re not reading what the book industry creates for them. That’s a problem, but only to those working in that industry.”

    Oopsy … 😉

    “Having worked as a publisher before becoming responsible for the Kobo catalogue, I believe we need to start with the author and work our way back to all other parties involved to make the business models fit.”

    First with fewer parties between writer and reader.

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