Kobo took a big leap forward in Latin America as July closed, with a unique partnership that brings together Mexico’s two biggest, and rival, bookstores in one new Kobo-powered ebook store.
It’s an unprecedented move on the global ebook scene, and possibly the start of many similar partnerships to come as domestic bookstores set aside local rivalries to challenge Amazon’s global ambitions.
Amazon is well-established in Mexico, and has lately been upping its game in this key Spanish-speaking market. In fact, outside Brazil, Mexico is the only Latin American country Amazon is taking seriously right now.
Back in November 2014 El Financiero reported Amazon had bought its first warehouse in Mexico, which was all the warning Mexico’s domestic ebook retailers needed that Kindle.MX was about to be upgraded from a toehold store to the first foot on the ladder. Think Kindle India two years ago, or Kindle Netherlands today.
So while ebooks are still a tiny fraction of the book market in Mexico there can be no doubt the direction things are heading.
The problem for domestic stores in any country where Amazon sets up shop is that the Everything Store has deep pockets and, as and when it finally stops surcharging readers are starts taking them seriously as customers, it can quite simply out-spend any local rival, running at immense losses if need be, for as long as need be.
That, no doubt, was at the heart of Kobo’s unprecedented approach to Mexico’s two giant bookstore chains, Libreria Porrúa (LINK) and Gandhi (LINK), which between them have 100 bricks & mortar stores across Mexico.
While Kobo is no stranger to partner stores in Latin America or elsewhere around the globe – it has long since been operating Brazil’s Libraria Cultura ebook store (LINK), and had partner stores everywhere from the UK to Australia to the Philippines – this is the first time two rival bookstores anywhere have joined with Kobo to operate a single ebook store while continuing to compete in the print sector.
The new store will be called Orbile, and will be live sometime next month (September).
Orbile will kick off with 70,000 Spanish language titles alongside the full range of over 4 million ebooks that Kobo has to offer.
Both Gandhi and Liberia Porrúa previously ran their own ebook stores, but these will be set aside for the new joint venture. Presumably the self-pub portal Gandhi operated will be absorbed into Kobo Writing Life.
No word yet on how the benefits of the new store will be shared among the participants, but both bookstore chains will be selling Kobo devices in-store, and of course there will be Kobo campaigns nationwide to promote the new venture.
For forward-thinking indies looking to go global this is great news. While Google Play and Apple also sell ebooks in Mexico, and are easy access for English-language indies, none of the Latin American ebook retailers (of which there are far more than you might imagine) are easily accessible to us outsiders.
The new partnership means indies have a chance to get noticed by the Porrúa and Gandhi customers, and is going to be a shot across the bows for Kindle MX that may see Amazon revise its royalty policy on sales in Mexico (currently only 35% unless you are exclusive in Select) to encourage indies to take the Mexican market seriously.
While English-language books do sell in Mexico it is of course Spanish-language titles that are going to see the real action, and with Mexican trad pub titles still priced exorbitantly high, there is a big opportunity here for savvy indies to play the price game and score in this potentially lucrative market.
For thoughts on how to break into the translations game without taking out a third mortgage, check out the two posts on the Ebook Bargains UK blog on this subject, here (LINK) and here (LINK) .
The July issue of Publishing Perspectives Magazine has Mexico as one of its seven countries to watch. (LINK) .
The Latin American ebook market is about to blossom, and this new deal with Kobo will help it along.
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