Tag Archives: Kobo

Kobo Explain Kobogeddon, Except They Don’t

Kudos to Michael Tamblyn, Kobo’s chief content officer. He could have hidden behind a corporate silence after the Kobogeddon debacle, follow the advice of many a lawyer and simply give a “no comment”. Instead he got up on a stage and gave a calm, candid, even funny speech. And whilst it has disarmed many commentators, I found myself with one key question: why did Kobo nuke every self-published title?

Tamblyn’s speech at FutureBook has brought him universal acclaim, or so it seems. Indeed, he does a very good job of explaining what a difficult situation Kobo found themselves in. But after watching, I still found myself wondering why they had to remove every self-published title, even temporarily, when vendors like Apple, Barnes & Noble and Amazon managed to remove only the offending titles. The cynic in me thinks it knows the answer.

Kobo had to upset one party, WHSmith on the one hand and indie authors on the other. Both parties made money for Kobo. But one party was a single entity which could make a single decision to take that money away. The other party was a disparate group of multiple entities that would have to make thousands of individual decisions to boycott Kobo. Some might leave. Some would stay. And the majority were likely to grumble but stay anyway.

I’m aware that sounds very cynical. I’m not suggesting that is the case (although it is a possibility). So what am I saying? Only this:

He didn’t answer the most important question. We should still be asking Kobo “why?”

Can Indie Authors Trust Kobo?

It would be easy to get angry at Kobo. When their UK partner WHSmith removed all self-published ebooks to stamp out the pornography that’s been hogging headlines, Kobo cosied up to them and followed suit. They cut off thousands of indie authors from any revenue they might have earnt via Kobo. They punished the many for the sins of the few. In short, they burnt downt the house to get rid of the ant nest, and they asked indie authors to pay for the matches. An indie author could be forgiven for wondering if they should trust Kobo. But here’s my point:

You shouldn’t trust any of them.

There are a lot of indie authors who don’t bother with Kobo, or Apple, Barnes & Noble etc. They cosy up to Amazon, sign up to their exclusive KDP Select scheme and sit back. They trust Amazon to sell their book for them and no-one else.

I have often said that’s not what authors should do. I’ll say it again too. Authors should ensure their books are available in as many formats from as many vendors as possible. KDP Select might offer you a few perks, but why are you alienating the Nook owner who can’t download your ebook? Why are you telling the Kobo owner she’s not good enough to buy your ebook? If readers can own different ereaders, authors should make their books available on all of them.

But Kobo have highlighted the other side of this argument. Spreading your ebooks over multiple stores diminishes your risk.

Imagine Amazon reacted the same as Kobo. Imagine Amazon just stopped selling your book. If your book is sold by Kobo, Apple, Nook, Smashwords et al then you’ve taken a blow but it’s not the end of the world. But if no-one sells your book but Amazon? Then you just stopped earning any money whatsoever.

WHSmith have shown us how easy it is for a retailer to stop selling our books; they did it in a heartbeat. Kobo took less than a day. Trusting any retailer to have your best interests at heart is foolish and, if you rely on those royalties to pay the bills, dangerous. So whilst Kobo may be denying us sales, perhaps we should be thanking them for the lesson.

Don’t put all your ebooks in one basket.

Kobo Offer Self-Publishers Another Portal

The end of the month will see the debut of Kobo WritingLife. Kobo are promising high royalties, advanced sales data for authors and a platform based on the open EPUB format. It sounds great, but I wonder if yet another self-publishing portal will really make a difference?

I initially thought not. Kobo doesn’t have a big presence in the UK. They’ve made a deal with to sell their ereaders exclusively through WH Smith, which aligned Kobo with irrelevance in my mind. Turns out Kobo is bigger than I thought. A presence in 190 countries, triple digit growth and 8 million registered users are nothing to sniff at.

But that’s a drop in the ocean compared to Amazon’s 275 million customers.

Kobo’s only been around for two and a half years so it’s not fair to compare (mon frère) them with Amazon. It would be easy to dismiss them for being so much smaller. But the truth is that indie authors will go where the readers are. Kobo is another avenue to readers and that automatically makes it matter; to ignore it would be to lose sales. But Kobo just has too small a share compared alongside the giants of Amazon, Apple and Barnes & Noble. Kobo WritingLife will be a welcome addition to the stable, but it’s not big enough to have much of an impact.

Not yet.