Kobo Disappoints

Kobo to small publishers: Go away!

If you’re running a small publishing outfit and want to reach the Kobo/Borders community, forget it: if you publish fewer than 10 titles, they’ll turn away your business. Unlike Amazon and Barnes & Noble, who have made it a breeze for small publishers to sell titles in their online stores, Kobo requires that you work with a digital aggregator — good news for middlemen who are an endangered species, but bad news for publishers who don’t want to deal with life-sucking middlemen.

Then why does Kobo even bother having a page that invites writers?

And what’s up with its lead paragraph? Is this just a lie?

Authors & Publishers

Interested in selling your content on Kobo? If you own the digital rights to your content – be it one title, a thousand titles, or more – we can make it happen.

Boldfaced emphasis added by me.

Go read that page. See the other shiny, inviting claims that are now apparently utterly false. Nothing but cheap bait-and-switch.

Subjecting people to Smashwords — where formatting is indeed smashed — is not doing anyone any favors.

I was really admiring Kobo Books for being a 21st-Century company. But this move is strictly out of Dickens.

Update: Response from Kobo in the Comments.

8 Comments

Filed under Kobo Reader, Stupid

8 responses to “Kobo Disappoints

  1. Pingback: Kobo Disappoints

  2. Pingback: Tweets that mention Kobo Disappoints « Mike Cane's xBlog -- Topsy.com

  3. Hi Mike — nothing like a dose of high-octane invective to start the day ;-) Here was my response I posted back to Tomorrow’s Book. (Comment widget there is a little slow to load, so people might miss it.)

    I guess that’s one way to look at it. At Kobo, we probably spend more time and energy showcasing and promoting self-published authors and small presses than most of the retailers mentioned above. We like them, _read them_, get excited when they do well, regularly see them in our Top 10. We truly believe that one of the incredible things about ebooks is the ability for self-published authors to reach massive audiences in an entirely new way. But we are also not as massive as some of our competition. When you’re David amongst a bunch of Goliaths, you have to focus a bit.

    So it’s true — rather than building out self-publishing infrastructure or white-labeling someone else’s, we created partnerships with Smashwords. Mark and his team have been such passionate, enthusiastic advocates for ebook self-publishing, not just building software or tools but a community of authors and small publishers — definitely not just a “middleman”. They add some real value that we’re happy to support. And we did a partnership with Author Solutions for similar reasons. And that freed us up to be first bookstore on Android and Blackberry, among the first on iPad, first on PlayBook, first $149 device, ebooks in 200 countries, and so on, giving authors and publishers greater distribution in more places and on more devices than ever before. And doing it while being a tenth the size of either of the retailers above (twentieth? thirtieth?) We’ll keep picking our battles, loving independent publishers, and focusing on getting the best possible book in the right person’s hands.

    The only other thing I’d add is that the email message he refers to usually ends with this:

    “That said, every publisher is different so if you think a direct relationship would be beneficial to both parties let us know.”

    What it comes down to is: if a self-publisher, small publisher, or independent press wants to work with us directly, we’d love to have them, and with terms they will find as good or better than those from other retailers. If they’d rather not, no problem — we have partners they can go to as well.

    Hope this helps,
    Michael Tamblyn
    EVP Content, Sales & Merchandising – Kobo

    • mikecane

      No, it doesn’t help at all. Because after giving your reasons for intermediaries (and they are that, and the value of the smashed formatting from Smashwords is dubious in “adding value”), you seem to contradict it with this:

      >>>“That said, every publisher is different so if you think a direct relationship would be beneficial to both parties let us know.”

      I can appreciate you being a David, and you know I otherwise like your company, but the text on the page I linked to seems outdated at the very least and should be changed to reflect your reliance on intermediaries right now.

      • What I’m trying to convey here is the idea that for a lot of small pubs and self-published authors, using companies like Smashwords is great — they get easy, wide distribution to the retailers they are interested in with a single relationship, conversion of .doc to .epub, etc. We get a simpler relationship with a single aggregator. But if that publisher can manage metadata and epub files themselves (or want to have conversion done), we can work with them directly. Want to hand-tweak your epub file? Wicked. Love it. We have direct relationships with thousands of small presses and self-published authors. We also have thousands of self-pub and indy press through aggregators like Smashwords and others. People can pick the model that’s right for them.

        That said, the page you speak of could use some updating. We have new terms coming out for independent publishers that are quite competitive with those offered through other retailers’ programs. We’ll get that sorted shortly.

        Cheers,
        Michael Tamblyn – Kobo

      • But if that publisher can manage metadata and epub files themselves (or want to have conversion done), we can work with them directly.

        I’ll bite. B10 Mediaworx has a catalog of four titles, with two more coming next year, with hand-crafted EPUBs.

        How can I get in your store? What information on the linked page is valid and what is not?

        My email is esb10@b10mediaworx.com. I can send the files today.

      • Actually, eight titles if you count the free reads.

  4. The EPUB version of my Taos Soul book produced by Smashwords looks exactly the same as the Kindle version (no “smashing”), although I did have to change the title page for the required front matter boilerplate.

    Remember, you said the formatting for the Kindle version looked “kick-ass good!” With every other ebook format produced by the aptly-named Smashwords Meatgrinder, however, there are blatant errors: the Smashwords .mobi file, for example, has TWO tables of contents. They did a good job with the .epub, however.

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