Tag Archives: Kobo

Mexico is Publishing’s New El Dorado, Draft2Digital to Distribute to 24Symbols, and other Hot Tips for Internationalist Indie Authors.

There’s so much happening on the global scene right now it’s hard to keep on top of things. And that’s before the Frankfurt Book Fair kicks off.

To keep you up to speed, here’s another batch of short posts on how the global markets are shaping up.

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Regulars will know how excited I am about the Spanish-language prospects right now. With a half billion Spanish speakers around the world this is a huge market to tap into, and because of the concentration of Spanish speakers in Spain and Latin America it’s also a relatively easy market to tap into.

Two Spanish literary agents have just this past week launched a new venture called The Spanish Bookstage. (LINK)

The more observant will have spotted that’s in English, and so is the site – a reminder as ever that we Anglophone authors have a built in advantage in tackling the global markets even when the markets are in another language.

I’m a big fan of Babelcube – it’s a great way to find translator-partners. But… And it’s a big but… By going through Babelcube you hand over the distribution rights for that language to Babelcube and, at this stage in their game, that can be a frustrating experience, as Babelcube’s distribution leaves much to be desired.

Which is why, while I use translator-aggregators like Babelcube and Fiberead, I also seek translator-partnership arrangements independently. Not least for when opportunities like The Spanish Bookstage come along.

“The new platform,” says Publishing Perspectives (LINK) “comes at a time when the Spanish publishing industry (both in Spain and Latin America) is gaining stronger visibility in the global marketplace.”

While this is the first major platform dedicated to Spanish-language titles, there are plenty of similar operators which savvy indies should be keeping a close eye on that cover the global markets generally. I’ll be taking a close look at some of them as we wind up this year.

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Publishing Perspectives is always a good bet for global publishing insights, and especially so this month with the Frankfurt Book Fair almost upon us.

In an article on Publishing Perspectives few days ago Özkan Özdem offered some very useful insights into the exciting Turkish market. (LINK)

Again, regulars will know Turkey is high on my list of priorities, so I found this post very instructive. You may too.

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Moving on to that headline. Mexico is publishing’s new El Dorado?

Well, so says Diana Hernández Aldana from Turner Libros, a major Spanish-language publisher. (LINK)

Aldana expresses surprise at “the size of the markets in Mexico and Latin America and at their growth.”

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Over at The Digital Reader Nate reports that 3M is out of the library distribution business. (LINK)

From Nate’s post:

3M’s library division has been bought by Bibliotheca, a company that describes itself as “the largest global company dedicated to the development, deployment, and support of self-service library solutions”.

Nate assures us the 3M library distribution will continue without interruption, just under another name. Which hopefully means there will be no interruption to Babelcube’s distribution to what is currently called 3M.

3M supply mainly the US library system, and had ventured into Canada. There was talk of an international network along the lines of OverDrive, but that came to nothing. It remains to be seen what will happen globally.

Meantime be sure to be in OverDrive’s library catalogues. OverDrive have extensive international distribution and with Rakuten now owning them it’s likely they will be expanding further as we hit 2016.

OverDrive library access for your titles can be gained through the pay-as-you-sell aggregators Smashwords or StreetLib . as well as many pay-up-front services.

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Staying with StreetLib, a reminder that StreetLib now gets you into the key Latin American ebook retailer Bajalibros, which has stores across the region, including Brazil.

“In recent years,” opens Publishing Perspectives in a post on opportunities in Brazil (LINK) “while European book markets have remained almost flat or have even declined, the emerging countries are seeing a new chapter of the global business of books emerge in terms of exposure, opportunities and sales.”

Hardly news to regulars here, of course. Brazil has long been on my priority list.

Apparently only 25% of Brazilians have read a book in the past three months.

Plenty of reasons for that. Not least Brazilians being too busy playing on those beautiful beaches, or exploring the Amazon. Or, far more likely, that books have been a) unaffordable and b) unavailable.

But that is changing fast. Very fast.

And anyway, before we dismiss that 25% as too small to bother with, let’s bear in mind that 25% of Brazil’s 200 million population is 50 million.

Liana Suppressa, an Italian rights agent who specializes in children’s and YA titles, says that in Brazil there is a very strong enthusiasm and openness of publishers and of readers towards international authors,” adding, in Brazil “there’s a growing interest for middle grade and YA titles, both fantasy and contemporary realistic stories.”

Savvy internationalist authors will be looking to partner with Brazilian publishers to get a share of some of that growing enthusiasm, and of course making their own luck by going direct with their digital titles. Amazon, Apple, Kobo and Google Play are in Brazil,.

And not forgetting POD.

Babelcube is a great place to find (with some effort sifting through) some very competent Portuguese translators for both Brazil and mainland Portugal.

And longer term there are prospects for Portuguese translations in countries like Mozambique and Angola. As I’ll be exploring in a dedicated post shortly, Africa is an exciting emerging prospect.

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Speaking of Africa…

As I’ve reported many times, one reason I’m so excited by the global opportunities unfolding is because of the way some cyber-companies are investing in global internet reach.

I summarised the wonderful work of Google (Internet Saathi, Loon, etc) and Facebook’s Aquila project over on the Anne R. Allen blog last month (LINK), and also mentioned satellites.

Both Google and Facebook are investing in satellites, and this post over at VentureBeat this week adds further details of what Facebook have planned for us. (LINK)

Facebook have just partnered with Eutelstat Communications to deploy geostationary satellites  that will cover vast expanses of sub-Saharan Africa, starting in 2016.

The five ton Amos-6 satellites, built in Israel, will orbit above Africa (in sync with the Earth’s orbit) and facilitate broadband internet reception across the region, linking to African ISPs and direct to consumers. Crucially working with standard off-the-shelf devices like regular smartphones and tablets. No specialist equipment needed.

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Next, some words from trad-pub industry commentator Mike Shatzkin.

Shatzkin’s posts often get picked up by the indie blogosphere with the intent of ridiculing everything trad pub is doing. Usually with scant regard to the reality that trad pub is doing rather well.

This post from Shatkin covered backlist and export. (LINK)

That’s global sales, to us folk for whom international is a frame of mind, not just an ambition. Of course the indie blogs seized upon Shatkin’s thoughts on backlist and totally ignored his thoughts on export.

Shatzkin reports on an Ingram-hosted conference recently where one US publisher, Diversion Books, had launched its own ebook store app for its romance titles.

Shatzkin reports that Diversion are now seeing almost half – 49% – of English-language sales coming from outside the US, and perhaps most significantly of, 43% of sales coming from outside the US, UK and Canada.

A safe bet that 43% is not all from Australia and New Zealand, and very likely India is playing a significant role. But even so, a substantial portion of those “export” sales will be coming from other markets around the world.


Because they are being made available and buyable.

As I’ve said so many times here, trad pub (big and small) is raking in the cash from the global New Renaissance while most indies are still partying like its 2009, fighting each other for a share of the ever more competitive US market.

Indies can already get very profitable global reach from the mainstream retailers, but there are still vast tracts of the world off-limits by going this route.

Diversion’s ebook store app is one way in which small publishers – and indies –can reach a far bigger audience. And earn more from each transaction. And have access to the customer data.

Direct to consumer sales are something all indies with a decent-sized portfolio need to be looking at as we enter the second half of this decade.

I’ll be exploring this more as we head into 2016.

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Finally, let’s end with the second half of that headline somewhere above.

Yes, Draft2Digital is about to announce a distribution deal with the Spanish subscription service 24Symbols.

24Symbols is a subscription service in Europe that has been happily managing to survive with the subscription model since 2011.

Draft2Digital currently supplies the US subscription services Scribd and Oyster (Oyster will be closing early next year), tas well as the European ebook operator Tolino, the global Page Foundry (Inktera and Versent ebook stores) and the usual suspects Apple, Kobo and Nook.

As best I can see, the new addition will make D2D the only English-language aggregator getting indie titles into 24Symbols (if anyone knows another, do let me know). UPDATE, With great embarrassment I have to admit I somehow missed the fact that StreetLib already supplies 24Symbols. Sorry guys! So Draft2Digital will not be the first or the only.  🙂

And with Smashwords having recently dumped Flipkart, the addition of 24Symbols will make D2D a first-option for ever more indies frustrated by Smashwords’ antiquated system.

I’ll be running a comparison of the main pay-as-you-sell English-language aggregators shortly, looking at the pros and cons of each.

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We have unprecedented opportunities before us as the second half of the second decade of the twenty-first century unfolds.

Don’t let them pass you by.

Think about the next five years, not the next five weeks.

For daily news and discussion about the global indie publishing scene join this lively Facebook Group.

The International Indie Author Facebook Group

The View From The Beach – Mark Williams At Large


EBUK blogger Mark Williams takes a personal look back over recent developments on the global ebook scene.


Never mind audio-books. Say hello to smelly books. Smell-e-books, that is.

It had to happen. Ebooks that you can sniff.

A company called Vapor Communications has been testing smelly text messages for a while – no, seriously – and is now ready to apply the technology to ebooks. (LINK)

Not quite sure what they have in mind – food smells for your cookery books? Coffee smells for your series sponsored by Nescafe? Lots of opportunities to get boys reading with the smell-e-book version of Captain Underpants complete with fart smells and smelly skid-marks. As for bringing erotica ebooks to life with the pungent aroma of… No, let’s not even go there.

Or just maybe that wonderful bookstore smell you get when you first open a new print book. Now that would be a breakthrough.


Romania has long been on my Ones-To-Watch list for Europe, and Publishing Perspectives had a report this past week on one of Romania’s biggest online bookstores, Okian, which saw a 30% increase in sales last year.

I haven’t worked out how to get into Okian yet (they sell both print and digital) but a quick perusal of the store  (LINK) shows the prominence Okian gives to English-language titles. In the Publishing Perspectives report Okian’s CEO Tudor Benga confirms English-language titles are a big growth area for Okian.

Does this mean we’ll all sell more books in Romania? Yes and no.

At risk of being slammed for being anti-Amazon again it has to be noted that Amazon are busily surcharging Romanian readers, so your $2.99 ebook will cost a reader in Bucharest $4.99 plus currency exchange fees. You’ll get paid just 35% of the $2.99 if you do get a sale.

Luckily you can reach Romanian readers through Google Play, Scribd and Apple. To see your books in the Apple iBooks Romania store just go to your Apple product page or preview page link and change the country code (US, GB, AU or whatever) to RO.

There are a good few local ebook stores too. Okian, obviously, and Elefant and Evobook are among the key players. Digital libraries are also doing well in Romania.  No easy access to Romanian ebook stores right now, but that will change. It’s early days. The global New Renaissance is still in first gear.

Romania, Hungary, Greece and Turkey are among the key players emerging in east and south-east Europe right now. These should be priorities for career-authors looking to partner with translators, partner with local publishers, or indeed to find a niche following in the English-language sector.

But the rest of Europe is proving very exciting too, with Poland a key player. Make sure you have your ebooks available in mobi as this format is very popular in Poland, where Poles are returning home from Germany and the UK with Kindle devices only to find they get surcharged by Amazon back home.

Germany of course is Europe’s sleeping giant for ebooks, and especially for English-language ebooks, along with the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark.

Not so hot for E-L titles but worth keeping an eye on for translation partnerships are Slovakia, Slovenia and the Czech Republic, and also the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Small populations, but embracing digital fast.

And since we’re on the subject of Europe a reminder that Kobo is now getting titles back into the UK’s WH Smith store, so Kobo is back on track as a player in the UK, as well as taking a keen interest in indies in western Europe.


Staying with Europe and English-language in Europe, click on this link to see an infographic of the percentage of people in the EU who can hold a conversation in English. It may surprise you. (LINK)

Of course holding a conversation and reading a book are not quite the same thing, but the stats are indicative of the high-regard English is held in as the lingua franca of the world.


Having mentioned Kobo and WH Smith above, romance writers may be interested to know Kobo is running a competition in conjunction with Mills & Boon, with first prize a Mills & Boon published novel, in both digital and print, with full promo from both Kobo and WH Smith. (LINK)

The deadline is July 14th.


WhatsApp has hit 800 million active users, with 100 million of them just since January. (LINK)

We’ve covered the messenger services a few times here at EBUK, and it’s a subject we’ll be returning to in-depth later. Here just a few quick observations.

WhatsApp is owned by Facebook but is a very different user experience from Facebook, and one largely ignored by indie authors. But these messenger services – along with the likes of Viber and Line, etc, etc, can, and are/will be key parts of our future promo scene. Ignore them at your peril.

With 800 million active users just on What’s App (equivalent to twice the population of the USA and UK combined) that’s a lot of people.

Re the mini-post above on English-speakers in the EU, chiming in at 90% was the Netherlands. It’s only very recently Amazon opened a Kindle NL store, and being so late to the party most indies are seeing little action, but Kobo now gets you into the biggest-by-far Dutch ebook store Bol.com, and the Tolino Alliance also distribute to the Netherlands, as do Txtr, Apple and of course Google Play.

According to this report (LINK) 8.7 million Dutch smartphone users have downloaded the WhatsApp app, and 90% of all female smartphone users in the Netherlands have downloaded WhatsApp.


As we explored in a post here at EBUK back in September (LINK), we will all have noticed that we don’t get inundated by tweets and FB posts from people in the Netherlands, or Indonesia or Outer Mongolia, and with good reason. But it works both ways. Our tweets and FB posts, even if promoting ebooks aimed at these markets, simple don’t get seen by most of the world, or even most of our regular contacts.

The only realistic way to connect with the global readership is to reach out and make connections on the social media and messenger services where they are, not where you are.

Not easy, and outside our comfort zone, of course. To make matters worse, messenger services do not work in the same way as the “traditional” (or should we say legacy?) social media we are used to, so there’s a learning curve involved.

But don’t tune out just yet, or you may find yourself standing at the station when this train departs.

You only have to look at the way Rakuten is gearing up to use Viber as an e-commerce sales vehicle – with a strong focus on selling Kobo ebooks! – to understand that it can be done and is being done. More on Rakuten’s plans in a full post very shortly.

Meantime why not trying connecting with WhatsApp users in the Netherlands, where 90% will at least understand your English, and a good percentage may be interested in reading your English books and ebooks? From little acorns…

As ever we indies can move with the times, or stay safe and cozy in our indie boxes partying like its 2009.

Our choice. Our prospective loss. But nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Oh, and for those wondering what the top ten messenger apps are right now… (LINK)


Indonesia Alert!

Facebook’s internet.org has just gone live in Indonesia. (LINK)

For those unfamiliar, internet.org is a free curated internet service featuring a couple of dozen key sites like Wikipedia, Wattpad, local government sites, health and employment sites, and of course Facebook.

The initiative is aimed at the net-disenfranchised who may have a smartphone but still cannot afford, or do not have the means to pay for, actual internet access. The internet.org connection is free.

Regulars here will know Indonesia is high on our watch-list as a big prospect for indie authors. Those using Wattpad might want to think about directing messages at Indonesian readers (20% of FB traffic in Indonesia is conducted in English!) to get yourselves known for when Indonesia moves to the next level. Today’s free-readers on Wattpad (accessible through internet.org) may be tomorrow’s paying customers that make you a best-selling author in Indonesia.

And while neither Apple nor Amazon sell ebooks in Indonesia, both Google Play and Scribd do.


For those who speak/read German the long-awaited Tolino self-pub portal is now up and running. (LINK)

I’m both disappointed and surprised there is no English-language option on the site, given the pan-European nature of Tolino and that is it, apparently, open to all EU members to use direct (presumably a payments and tax issue).

Germany’s Xin-Xii and Italy’s Narcissus both understand the value of the “international” language that is English. Hopefully an E-L option for the Tolino site will follow soon.

Meantime, for those like me who are linguistically challenged Tolino is easily accessible via Draft2Digital and Xin-Xii.


Rakuten wrapped up its buy-out of OverDrive this past week.

I’m a big fan of OverDrive and delighted Rakuten have taken over the operation. OverDrive are best known as the world’s largest library distributor, and I’ve been enjoying global library traffic through OverDrive for many years.

But OverDrive also supply a number of retail outlets, including key players like Waterstone’s in the UK and Kalahari in South Africa.

Rakuten have intimated there are no immediate plans to make changes at OverDrive, so business as usual for now, but it will be interesting to see what Rakuten has in mind longer-term.

With the Rakuten CEO’s plans to make Kobo ebooks a central part of the Rakuten Viber e-commerce venture it’s very clear ebooks and digital media in general is going to play a big part in Rakuten’s future.

Forward-thinking indies would do well to be fully engaged with both of Rakuten’s current ebook outlets. You can go direct to Kobo via Kobo Writing Life. OverDrive sn’t so easy to access, but the British aggregator Ebook Partnership will get your titles into both the OverDrive libraries and the OverDrive retailers.

For non-erotica indies you can get your titles into the overdrive libraries via Smashwords. The much-screamed-about “indie ghetto” at OverDrive is history, but it’s still a tortuous process gong via Smashwords.

A few days ago it was announced one of OverDrive’s library competitors, Ingram’s MyiLibrary, was being acquired by Proquest. I’d been trying to dig up some background on this without much success when, Nate at Ink, Bits & Pixels (formerly The Digital Reader) usurped my plan and ran a post this morning on this very subject. (LINK)

It’s well worth reading Nate’s post for some speculation on Proquest’s future plans.

Meantime I’m left wondering how indies will be able to get content into MyiLibrary now it is separate from Ingram.

Hopefully a savvy operator like Draft2Digital will step in. D2D have recently signed up with Tolino, and as aggregators go they show a lot of promise, but with neither Smashwords nor D2D yet to secure a deal with Google Play (both Italy’s Narcissus and Germany’s Xin-Xii have, as has Britain’s Ebook Partnership) it may well be that one of the European aggregators takes the lead here too.


Back in 2013 here on the EBUK blog we speculated that ebooks would soon come with a QR code on breakfast cereal packets and ketchup bottles. Well, we’re still waiting to see ebooks on ketchup bottles, but the innovative British ebook retailer and supermarket chain Sainsbury had ebooks on its own-brand cereal packets just a few months later, and in April 2015 Simon & Schuster joined the cereal club with a deal to promote ebooks on Cheerios packets. (LINK)

By no means the only example of Europe being literally years ahead of America with digital. Just think ebooks on planes, trains and buses, or indeed subscription services.


Not for everybody, but for those who write about finances, money and business, this new report from K-lytics is very useful reading. (LINK)


I’m often asked which blogs and such I’d recommend to keep ahead of the ebook game and spot the trends before they become the next overcrowded bandwagon to jump on.

In fact it’s a broad mixture of publishing-industry blogs, tech blogs and finance blogs that collectively give the bigger picture.

So over the coming weeks I’ll take a look at a few must-read sites and discuss their good and bad points. Starting today with GalleyCat.

GalleyCat gets singled out for being one of the most irritating of the industry blogs.

Not that it’s all bad, of course. If you want the latest trad pub news then GalleyCat is as good as any, but GalleyCat also purports to be on top of the indie scene. Yet it rarely shows it is anything of the sort.

Take the weekly best-selling self-published titles report they reel out. (LINK)

This is a great idea in principle, but guys, first you need to understand what the key self-publishing sales platforms are, and clearly you don’t.

In GaleyCat’s own words, “To help GalleyCat readers discover self-published authors, we compile weekly lists of the top eBooks in three major marketplaces for self-published digital books: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.”

Er, guys, I hate to break this to you but Smashwords is a major self-published authors’ distributor. An aggregator. That it happens to sell ebooks as a sideline service does not in any way, shape or form make it “a major marketplace” for indie ebooks. Most non-writer readers have never heard of Smashwords.

If you want to produce a meaningful list try comparing the top indie titles across Amazon, Nook, Apple, Scribd, Oyster, Kobo and Google Play.

To see just how meaningless the current list is, just take a look at the top three self-published bestsellers from Amazon and Smashwords. I leave you to decide which store is which. Somehow I doubt you’ll have brain-hernia working it out.

Store 1:

  1. The Mistake (Off Campus Book 2)by Elle Kennedy
  2. Chanceby Deborah Bladon
  3. The Mad Tatterby J.M. Darhower

Store 2:

  1. Cognitive Activity Design: Designing Creative Activities and Art-Based Projects That Promote Brain Health and FlourishingBy Michael C. Patterson
  2. Negotiating for Success: Essential Strategies and SkillsBy George J. Siedel
  3. Strong Brains, Sharp Minds: The Definitive Guide to the MINDRAMP Method For Brain Health & Mental DevelopmentBy Michael C. Patterson & Roger Anunsen


While the indie world is obsessing about Amazon’s drone programme, Jeff Bezos is quietly getting on with something far more exciting – a space programme. This isn’t part of Amazon, but one of Bezos’s many private ventures.

His private space company Blue Origin successfully launched its first space rocket at the end of April, taking the world a step closer to passenger space travel. (LINK)

Bezos is no stranger to space. Two years ago his private exploration operation recovered the Saturn 5 rocket engines that launched Apollo 11. (LINK)

I often get slammed for being “anti-Amazon” for suggesting that everything Jeff Bezos does at Amazon is not in fact done for the sole benefit of indie authors. But as a child of the Apollo programme, when it comes to Uncle Jeff’s space endeavours I love them all!

Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.

Kobo Launches Debut Writer Competition In Canada


This is a smart move by Kobo., Hopefully they’ll roll it out more widely later this year.

Essentially all Canadian residents who debuted a book in 2014 can enter and potentially win CAD $10,000, and some serious internal promo from Kobo too.

Three categories are open: non-fic, lit-fic and mystery. Debut authors only and a Canada address required. The book does need to be available on Kobo, but not exclusively.

While not much use to those who live outside Canada or have several titles under their belt, this could be a great deal for anyone who does meet the criteria.

Not least because very few authors will meet the said criteria, and even fewer will ever get to hear about this opportunity in the first place, so it could be a very small pond the judges will be fishing in.

Deadline is March 31. If you know anyone who might be eligible, do share this post, or at least share this LINK.

Ebook Bargains UK

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Far more than just the UK.

Kobo Kicks Off The Race For The Middle East.

Go Global In 2014

Those indies frustrated by the difficulties presented reaching readers in the potentially lucrative Middle East market have reason to be cheerful today, with news that Kobo is making a concerted effort to become a player in the region.

Neither Apple nor Google Play have ebook stores in the Middle East (although Google Play is in Turkey, which is bloody close!), and Amazon famously blocks downloads to anyone who hasn’t got a pre-existing western Kindle account. Great for expats and westerners working in the region. Not so great for local people.

We reported on the developing interest in ebooks in the region back in March in a post entitles Ebook Store Go Forth And Multiply In the Middle East (LINK), and before that, in an article entitle How Much Water Does It Take To Make An Ebook? (LINK) we looked at the climate factors that have meant many areas of the world have been no-go areas for print books but are now opening up to digital reading.

More recently, in July, we predicted Google Play would be the first major western operator to open ebook stores in the Middle East. (LINK)

We stand by that. Kobo isn’t launching a localized store for any of the Middle East countries. But what it is doing is making a concerted effort to get Kobo devices into bricks & mortar stores in the region, with the knock-on effect that device-buyers will buy from the Kobo international ebook store.

It’s a BIG step forward for e-reading in the region, and a big opportunity to find new readers for those indies in Kobo looking to extend their global reach.

Kobo have partnered with regional operator Lionfish to get Kobo devices into 34 stores across the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) states, including Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates. (LINK)

While the Kobo ebook store has previously been accessible in the Middle East it was pretty much unknown, so this move will help build awareness of the Kobo store not just for Kobo device buyers but also for readers with smartphones or iPads who can download a Kobo app.

So far it’s just a handful of the GCC countries, and no localized store, but it’s a welcome start.

We hope Kobo will be looking to expand its presence in the rest of the Middle East and the Arabic-speaking states across North Africa in 2015, but our money is still on Google Play to be the first to actually set up dedicated stores there.

The Digital Reader, also covering this story (LINK), mentions the Arabic-language store Kotobi (LINK). Kotobi is on our “investigate” list, but so far we haven’t made much progress. If anyone out there is familiar with the store, do let us know.

And as a final thought, for anyone with the knowledge or contacts to get Arabic translations of their works, this move by Kobo could make the endeavoiur worthwhile.

Ebook Bargains UK.

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Far more than just the UK.

Advice To Indie Authors – Don’t Overlook Kobo.

Go Global In 2014

 Don’t Overlook Kobo?

Well we would say that, wouldn’t we. So why the headline?

Because actually it’s not ours. It’s a headline from the ever-unpredictable GoodEreader, which just two weeks ago was asking if Kobo and B&N should close their self-pub platforms because they were so utterly pointless.

That was Michael Kozlowski, who makes absolutely no secret of his utter disdain for us indies – as witness this tirade against self-publishers just six weeks ago when the Smashwords-OverDrive deal was made public. “OverDrive inundates libraries with 200,000 horrendous indie ebooks.

Mercy Pilkington on the other hand takes a more tolerant approach. So much so we’re repeating some of it here.

As Mercy says,

“…one of the unfortunate truths about self-publishing is that many authors make it as far as uploading to KDP, then don’t go any further…Mostly through a lack of awareness of other opportunities and difficulties authors faced in trying to create accounts on other sites, many indie ebooks simply languish alone on KDP.”

Both points are valid, although free-to-load/pay-as-you-sell aggregators like Smashwords and Draft 2 Digital make it pretty straight-forward to get into many other retailers.

The real issue is lack of awareness.

While Amazon’s KDP is a natural first port of call for any writer making their first foray into self-publishing, these same new writers will also tend to make their first port of call for industry knowledge the blogs of the self-appointed indie-spokesmen.

And that’s where the problem lies.

Because many of the self-appointed indie spokesmen and their blogs are closely aligned with Amazon and have little interest or incentive in letting their audience know about alternatives.

Some go out of their way to run negative stories about any competitor to Amazon (B&N and Nook come in for particularly harsh treatment), while performing acrobatics to make Amazon’s less-endearing side seem nothing but a PR ploy by those nasty trad-publishers.

Innocent newbies reading these blogs and the comments that go with them (and often seeing any contrary viewpoint denounced as a troll) will be left in no doubt that there’s only one show in town and they would be totally wasting their time with any other retailer.

No matter that in the real world 3,500 of every 10,000 ebooks sold in the US is happening on a retailer other than Amazon.

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 For indie authors who are getting the red carpet treatment from the Amazon imprints or the elite agented-authors-only Amazon-exclusive White Glove programme Amazon may well be the be-all and end-all of their existence, but for most authors Amazon is just one of many retailers they could and should be in.

Amazon’s sixty-five per cent market share is undeniably impressive and as we constantly reiterate here on the EBUK blog, Amazon is THE most important retailer for most indies right now. But that still leaves 35% of the US market going to other retailers.

And internationally the figure is much, much higher.

Michael Kozlowski this week called Britain’s Tesco Blinkbox a “breakout” ebook store. No surprise to us. We’ve been predicting the impact of Tesco on the UK ebook market for a long time now, as regular readers will know.

Too soon for actual figures showing how much market share Tesco and Sainsbury are taking in the UK but safe to say it’s happening.

In Germany Amazon has seen its market share decimated as the Tolino Alliance stores got their act together in 2013 to challenge Amazon’s dominance. Now down to just 40%.

Elsewhere around the world, Canada and Australia aside, Amazon has yet to make an impact. As Mercy Pilkington notes , Amazon and B&N et al simply do not “have the global reach that Kobo has, with a market presence in nearly 200 countries.”

While our guess is Google Play will continue to lead the way for global ebooks, Kobo is still our best bet for second place.

Not that you’d know it reading the Zon-centric blogs, but Rakuten – Kobo’s parent company – are a major global online player, competing with Amazon at many levels.

Rakuten is not the kind of operator that will buy a venture like Kobo and that let it drift into oblivion. If it seems that Kobo’s international expansion has ground to a halt lately we suspect that’s due to the new guy in charge taking a step back and looking at what Rakuten can actually do for Kobo, rather than letting Kobo just carry on as a parallel company in a parallel universe. Our guess is Rakuten will soon begin a programme whereby the Kobo stores are integrated into the myriad existing Rakuten partner sites, which will dramatically increase Kobo’s reach.

But even without that Kobo is still a major international player, no matter how much the Zon-centric blogs prefer to pretend it doesn’t exist.

Thanks Mercy Pilkington at GoodEreader for the reminder.


Ebook Bargains UK

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Around The World in 80 Ebook Stores 2 – PaperPlus


New Zealand is a small country with an even smaller population It clocks up less than five million people, only a tiny fraction of whom will be reading ebooks. On the other hand it’s a key English-speaking market, so has the attention of the key western ebook players.

Until recently New Zealand was one of a handful of non-Kindle countries that were allowed to buy from Kindle US without surcharges. Late last year that position was entrenched when New Zealanders were unilaterally “assigned” (Amazon’s term) to Kindle Australia, although at this stage it seems they can opt to buy from either Kindle US or Kindle Australia.

Apple of course has long provided New Zealanders with their own iBooks store, and New Zealanders can also choose to buy from the Berlin-based ‘txtr New Zealand store and Google Play New Zealand. Other options include Fishpond (a significant online regional player across Oceania but not really taking ebooks seriously) and of course the international stores like Smashwords, AllRomance/OmniLit, Diesel, Blio, the Australian based EbooksCom, etc.

paperplus logo

While there are no sensible, let alone reliable, figures our guess is that while many will be buying from Amazon, many more New Zealanders are taking the patriotic option and buying from local stores like Whitcoulls and PaperPlus. Kobo saw a 40% increase in sales last year and safe to presume the New Zealand and Australian partner stores were key players in that surge.

Both the Kobo New Zealand partner stores are local book/stationary chains so have good domestic brand recognition (the biggest problem facing rival ‘txtr).

We’ll look more closely at Whitcoulls another time. Here just to say both partner stores carry Kobo titles at (99% of the time) identical prices, but your titles appearing in one does not mean they will be in the other.

PaperPlus was declared Music / Book Store Of The Year 2013, which is both good and bad for us indies. Good in that the store obviously is liked by the locals, and good that by stocking a variety of products it will attract people to the store who may not have planned on buying a book but might just end up with a couple in their shopping kart.

The downside to that is books, let alone, ebooks, are not the store’s primary focus. That said, from what we’ve seen they obviously are book-lovers. Ebooks? At the moment ebooks are still a sideshow, but as ereading widens and the PaperPlus management adjust their priorities so will the scope of the PaperPlus ebook store to deliver for authors.

That might be a while off. At the moment a cursory inspection of the PaperPlus site gives no indication whatsoever that they sell ebooks. Only when you search for a book title does, if available, an ebook selection come up, and only then do you find its a Kobo-supplied ebook.

For those who know PaperPlus does sell ebooks, albeit behind closed doors, finding the title they want still poses challenges.

The default search engine category is stationary – forget to select the books category and you will get a null result. The search parameters are strict. A simple typo will deliver null results, so type carefully! Often title and author together will bring zero results but if you put in one or the other the title will come up. And some days nothing will show in the search results even though you can see the book is available when you go by direct link.

Whether these are faults at the PaperPlus end, at the Kobo end, or a simple issue of integration is unclear. What is clear is it’s rather unhelpful for readers wanting to buy and authors wanting to sell. If you are with Kobo and all your titles are showing in PaperPlus then congratulations. Sadly for a large number of authors that isn’t the case.

And it gets worse.

Here at EBUK we run several different titles through several different Kobo partner stores every day, checking price and availability, and – sorry, Kobo, there’s no polite way of putting this other than to exclude the expletive – it’s a nightmare.

Not just PaperPlus, but pretty much all the partner stores exhibit the same pattern. An author may have a series of five titles and Books 2 and 4 might be there but the others not. An author’s flagship title may not be available, while lesser titles are. For authors with just one or two titles to their credit it can be the difference between having a presence in store and not being available at all.

When we say unavailable we mean either not there at all, or listed as “Not In Stock”, with blank rectangles where the tiles were once available but no longer are. And not through any choice of the authors, who are more than a little annoyed at this mess.

When indies contact PaperPlus (or any other partner store) they are told they can only list what Kobo sends them. When authors ask Kobo they are told the partner store chooses what gets in.

Who to believe? Sorry, Kobo, but as one (unnamed) partner store told us, “Why on earth would we want to stock random titles in a series and not all of them? It’s a bad experience for the reader and reflects badly on us.”


This situation has always been with us, but got dramatically worse following the W H Smith UK porn scandal last year, when Kobo was found to be distributing wholly unsavoury titles to its partner stores. Both W H Smith UK and Whitcoulls NZ closed shop while Kobo cleaned up the mess. Whitcoulls relented and let indie titles back in afterwards, subject to Kobo’s scrutiny. W H Smith took the opportunity to ban indies outright.

At that time Kobo pretty much removed all indie titles from all partner stores and has since been filtering them back in with varying degrees of inefficiency. Obviously it’s impossible to check every title individually so Kobo use a clunky and very unhelpful software system to decide what gets back in and what doesn’t. The resulting mess we see now, where totally innocuous titles are caught up in the Kobo net and prevented from reaching partner stores, is quite unacceptable.

This isn’t happening to trad-pubbed titles and, much as we’d like to think otherwise, it’s clear indies are not high on the list of Kobo’s priorities right now.

If you go to PaperPlus or any other Kobo partner store and find all is not rosy, do contact the store direct and get their take on the situation. It may be something they can resolve.

But if they can’t sort the problem, don’t shoot the retailer! The whole point of having Kobo handle their ebook store is so the retailer doesn’t have to.

Check out as many of the Kobo partner stores as you can, identify which titles are an issue in which stores, and tell Kobo. If Kobo tell you it’s the partner store that is to blame (Kobo’s default response, it seems) send Kobo’s email direct to the partner store and see what they say. When the partner store writes back saying it’s still Kobo’s problem, send that response back to Kobo. Nine times out of ten the issue will miraculously be resolved.

For all their faults Kobo are an essential place to be for any indie wanting global reach. Don’t give up on Kobo. But don’t stand for second-class treatment just because you’re an indie author.

Retailer Round-Up

Needless to   you need to be in Kobo to have any chance of appearing in the Kobo partner stores. Kobo is best approached direct through Kobo Writing Life, which will give you maximum control over your titles, subject to Kobo’s whim. Alternatively pretty much any aggregator will get you in.

Ebook Bargains UK

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Far more than just the UK.

Around The World In 80 Ebook Stores – 1: Book Soup


We’ve picked up a lot of new subscribers this past week, and those unfamiliar with the EBUK blog may be thinking Eighty Ebooks Stores? I can’t even think of eight!

Obviously we’ve chosen that number as an acknowledgement of the great literary heritage from which we all draw inspiration and on which we all seek to build, but actually eighty is just the tip of the iceberg.

Many of these myriad “new” ebook stores are little more than just-add-water instant micro-stores. White label stores attached to bricks and mortar bookseller websites, or even to retailers that have had no previous association with books.

They are cheap and easy to set-up, low-maintenance and bring the retailer another stream (trickle  in most cases) of income. We’ll look at just how White Label stores work, in another post.

When we say micro-stores we mean micro in terms of customer base, not ebook selection. Many of these micro-stores are powered by much bigger ebook retailers or distributors, like Kobo, ‘txtr, OverDrive, Copia, etc, meaning these micro stores may stock literally millions of ebooks, including yours.

If you check out the Ebook Bargains US newsletter you’ll find we feature a different micro-store each month, all attached to bricks and mortar indie booksellers. This is from today’s newsletter to US subscribers.


It’s actually Book Soup’s last day with us. There will be a different indie ebook store featured from tomorrow. Book Soup’s website can be found here.

Having your titles in the Book Soup ebook store won’t make you rich and famous. None of these micro-stores will ever deliver more than a handful of sales. So it is worth the bother?

Absolutely. For three very good reasons.

  • By getting your ebooks into these indie bookseller micro-stores and – better still – giving the store some promotional time occasionally, you help keep indie booksellers in business. Their percentage on the handful of sales you make will be insignificant on its own, but if they make a handful of sales from many thousands of different titles over the year their percentage may be the difference between them staying open or closing for ever.
  • That same handful of sales won’t be making you rich, or even buy you your next coffee and muffin. But if you make a handful of sales over a year in each of a hundred different micro-stores that soon mounts up. It won’t pay the fuel for the private jet you bought with your Amazon sales, but it will still be worth having.
  • Discoverability. As we’re always saying, being there is half the battle. If readers are have been loyal to their local book-store and have eschewed the undoubtedly cheaper prices from Amazon or B&N in favour of an indie book store so far then they are unlikely to desert that store to go digital. If the indie bookseller has an ebook store attached the readers will buy their ebooks from that store too. Regular Kindle, Nook and other users may recommend your title to am indie bookstore customer. The indie book store customer may find your title and recommend it to a Kindle or Nook customer. It’s win-win if you are available.

In the case of Book Soup customers will actually be buying from the Kobo ebook store. And if you have your titles listed in Kobo there’s a very strong possibility they’ll appear when a Book Soup customer uses the Kobo search engine on the Book Soup website.

We’ll be looking at Kobo’s US partner stores in a special feature on Indiebound soon. Here just to say Kobo provides ebook stores and ebooks to a rather large (and growing) number of indie bookstores in the USA.

This is micro market fragmentation in action. As above, individually these sales may be insignificant. Collectively these stores and their sales matter. Not for nothing is Amazon itself now following Kobo’s lead and partnering with indie bookstores where it can.

More on Amazon’s partner stores another time. Here just to say Kobo got in first and is way ahead of the game. Check out Indiebound to find out just how many indie booksellers not only have websites with your POD titles on, but also have their own ebook stores carrying literally millions of titles, powered and supplied by Kobo.

No official figures on this, but Kobo are believed to have a mid-single figure share of the US ebook market. That may not sound much, but when it’s a market as big as the US ebook market that’s not to be sneezed at. And our guess is the bulk of those sales are coming through Kobo partner stores in the US, not the localized Kobo-US website itself.

Retailer Round-Up

All the Indiebound indie bookseller ebook stores, including Book Soup, are supplied by Kobo. To get into Kobo you can go direct via Kobo Writing Life or through pretty much any aggregator. We find the Indiebound link to be very temperamental. If it doesn’t work for you, the address is http://www.indiebound.org/ebooks. Do persist. it will be worth it in the end.

Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter

Far more than just the UK