Kobo at Frankfurt: Devices, Writing Life, and Above All, BooksBy
An event like the Frankfurt Book Fair is such a whirlwind of activity, with tens of thousands of exhibitors and speakers and hundreds of thousands of attendees. This atmosphere actually lends itself well to learning about a wide variety of book related topics. So when Kobo’s Michael Tamblyn sat down with Good e-Reader to catch up on the latest news from the growing device-selfpub-platform-bookstore, it was difficult to take it all in. That’s due in part to the fact that Kobo has evolved into a one-stop location for any form of book need, whether from authors, publishers, or readers.
Tamblyn first discussed the announcement from Aquafadas today that enables the Kobo magazine store to become even more streamlined, even while adding more publisher content faster than many other retailers.
“Certainly the first manifestation of the Aquafadas technology has been the new magazine solution. From our perspective, the interesting challenge of magazines was we have this format that people like, and of all the print media out there, magazines have stayed pretty robust and healthy. But a lot of the trends have been towards the deconstruction of that content to make it digestible on a tablet. What we wanted to look at was how to maintain the fidelity of that design experience but create a reading experience without losing the value of that design.”
The Guided Reading feature of Aquafadas’ new Cloud Authoring platform allows that design to remain intact while still letting readers consume magazines on their tablets. Other news from the Kobo and Aqufadas collaboration is still pending, as the group continues to work on a self-publishing platform for children’s book authors and graphic novelists; the first step for Kobo was to develop a children’s bookstore to sell that content, and that is now viable.
Tamblyn also spoke on Kobo’s self-publishing platform Writing Life, and some of the information that was shared from the self-publishing panel at the CONTEC conference. Some of the data presented at the self-publishing lab included surprising numbers on authors who had never attempted to publish traditionally, as well as the number of authors who have already determined that their next unwritten book will be self-published. Questions were raised at the panel, however, about data from markets outside of the US and Europe.
“Two places I would draw your attention to: one is the extent to which self-published works, regardless of where they originate, have made their way into markets to which they were never considered or intended. Where we look at that ten percent of purchasing in self-publishing with us…that percentage is remarkably consistent, whether we’re looking at Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, Europe, Brazil, US, or Canada. Why is that happening? One of the reasons is there isn’t the price point tolerance of more developed markets. Self-publishing has moved in to fill a niche of a desire for reading…self-publishing is in many ways the most global form of content because when people upload they have all the rights, and will generally say, ‘Sell everywhere.’
“The other though, is a much more local thing that we’re seeing. We’re starting to do collaborations with our work with the ABA (American Booksellers Association) where we’re doing local self-publishing nights with the local bookstores, bringing together the local self-publishers and having them run clinics for other aspiring self-published authors or people who are trying to get a handle on what this space is…The catalog keeps growing with new authors all the time, new languages all the time, and even as the total business grows, that percentage of self-published sales remains shockingly consistent.”
Tamblyn was asked about some of the current trends in e-readers and tablets, especially regarding the several new launches we saw this week in the e-ink device market, and explained where Kobo stands on both their families of e-readers and tablets.
“We never backed away from e-ink. We placed what was seen at the time as a crazy bet in a larger screen, higher priced e-ink device at a time when everyone said this was not going to happen. And the device that in the time we forecasted would be five percent of our sales ended up being 25% of our sales. It really resonated with those people who have books at the center of their lives.”
Tamblyn went on to explain that the market for tablet consumers is so vastly different from the reader market; those who want the tablet experience may never read on the device, as opposed to the 53% of e-reader users who have been reported as engaging in daily reading on their devices.