As we all know, ebooks sales have levelled off in the USA, which is why recent reports from Amazon have been conspicuously quiet about Kindle ebook sales at home. And even quieter about Kindle ebook sales abroad, where Amazon has been facing stiff competition from the Tolino Alliance in Germany, the supermarket ebook store Sainsbury in the UK and myriad alternative ebook stores in Australia. When Kindle ebook and device sales are going well Amazon miss no opportunity to let us know it. Their recent silence on this matter is golden.
While Google Play continues to roll out international ebook stores (forty-four and counting) it seems Amazon’s international Kindle expansion is on hold. There are strong rumours we might see a Kindle Russia store this year, but there have been strong rumours in the past about a Kindle Chile and a Kindle Netherlands store, which came to nothing. As Amazon shareholders get restless about Amazon’s continuing failure to deliver meaningful profits, it seems unlikely we will see many – if any – new Kindle stores this year.
The last expansion by Amazon Kindle internationally was in August last year with the Kindle Mexico store. The more recent addition of the Kindle Australia store simply consolidated an existing market of Australian and New Zealand Kindle users, bringing nothing new to the table.
Not that Kobo has been dazzling us with new partner stores lately, but at least Kobo have been seeing continuing growth. A possible factor in Bella Andre’s decision to go exclusive with Kobo.
While Amazon kept the bad news quite Kobo delighted in telling us that revenues were up 40% in 2013 and the Kobo userbase had seen a 50% increase. Several sites reporting this, of course, but we’re linking to The Digital Reader again for this because Nate Hoffelder has a couple of little gems tucked away in his assessment.
Earlier this month Kobo CEO Mike Serbinis stepped aside to let Takahito Aiki take over at the Kobo helm. For those out of the loop Kobo, originally a Canadian company, was bought out by the Japanese-based on-line giant Rakuten, often referred to as the Amazon of the Far East. Until now Rakuten has stayed firmly in the back seat so far as driving Kobo’s ebook business was concerned, providing funding but little else.
Despite this, as just mentioned, Kobo saw its revenue rise by 40% last year.
Yes, we know. Most indies are selling next to nothing on Kobo, so how can this possible be so?
But as we’ve said before, Kobo has a very limited focus on the US market. In the wider world, on the other hand… Kobo is the biggest player in Canada and the Philippines and a significant player in France, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere. Not least the UK, where it still supplies trad-pubbed titles to WH Smith, even though indies have been banned from the store.
If you’re not seeing significant sales from Kobo and other platforms then, as we keep saying, don’t blame the other retailers if you spend half the time in Select or promotion and marketing is geared almost exclusively to Amazon. You reap what you sow…
What does the future hold for Kobo and indies?
Well for Kobo the future is bright. The Digital Reader describes Aiki as a
turnaround specialist (who) previously ran Fusion Inc, one of Rakuten’s telecom subs…Fusion was a money pit when it was acquired by Rakuten, but by the time Mr Aiki left it had generated over 1 and a half billion yen a year in operating income (aka operating profit) in 2012, and 1.9 billion yen in the first 9 months of 2013… If Mr. Aiki can have a similar effect on Kobo it’s potentially very good news for Kobo’s customers (as well as anyone who hates Amazon’s dominance of the ebook market)…
So looking good for Kobo customers who want to read trad pubbed books. Kobo is going to go from strength to strength.
But (the likes of Bella Andre aside) will we indies do anything more than cadge a ride on Kobo’s coat-tails? We’ll be coming back to Kobo and the future for indies very soon, with what may be a bleak outlook although (see below) there are some promising developments too.
For now, a reminder that, as well as the Kobo international store Kobo has “localized” stores in the US, UK, Canada, Netherlands, Germany, South Africa and elsewhere (these have territorial restrictions so you may need to live there to access them) as well as ebook partnerships with a large number of retailers. If you are listed with Kobo you may be lucky and find your titles in the following partner stores:
Chapters Indigo in Canada, Livraria Cultura in Brazil, National Book Stores in the Philippines, LibriMondadori in Italy, Fnac in France, Crossword in India, Angus & Robertson, Bookworld and Collins in Australia, Whitcoulls and Paperplus in New Zealand. There are plenty more, though sadly W H Smith UK and W H Smith India are both off limits to indies, and that’s very unlikely to change.
Kobo is a significant international ebook player, however much your sales and the Amazon-obsessed indie blogs tell you otherwise.
Don’t misconstrue any of this as anti-Amazon. Amazon is still the biggest player in several countries – and especially the US, UK and Germany – but Amazon is not the only show in town and indies need to stop partying like it’s 2009.
Kobo is an essential part of your ebook toolbox if you plan on going global in 2014.
Since this post is about Kobo a couple of snippets from the Kobo newsletter just released’
Kobo have just launched Kobo Next, an indie-exclusive recommendations engine. In Kobo’s words:
Customers can find their next great read on the Kobo Next page.
This section highlights self-published titles exclusively, and NOW has prominent placement on the Kobo site and in new releases emails worldwide.
That’s not the only thing Kobo are offering indies. They also have five places available on the Pubslush crowdfunding blog for authors to interest potential investors in their next book to help fund editing, cover design, formatting, etc. But you’d best hurry. The deadline is February 21, just a few days away.
Here’s the link for the Kobo Writing Life February newsletter. Along with Amazon’s Kindle and CreateSpace newsletters this should be an essential part of your indie toolbox, whether you go to Kobo direct or through an aggregator.
A final thought. Kobo is owned by Rakuten, a Japanese company. The Japanese company Rakuten have just announced their Global Strategy Briefing. You can read about it here. In English. And if you’re thinking that’s just a translation of the Japanese original, check out the link and watch the video where Rakuten’s Japanese head honcho delivers his (somewhat lengthy) address in person to the media and shareholders. Guess which language he delivers that lengthy address in…
Another simple one. To get in the Kobo partner stores, in the Kobo localized stores and in the Kobo international store you simply need to be in Kobo. You can go to Kobo direct through Kobo Writing Life, or through pretty much any aggregator, including Smashwords, D2D, Ebook Partnership, Bookbaby, etc.
Also mentioned were Amazon Kindle (go direct via KDP or through pretty much any aggregator) and Google Play. Again, you can go direct if in a Google Play country, otherwise the only aggregator loading to Google Play appears to be Ebook Partnership.
As ever, if you know differently, do share.