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?”