Kobo has a massive portfolio of over 5 million eBooks and magazines and serves millions of users across the world. The Canadian based company has expressed interest in the audiobook business for the last year and it looks like they offering them as soon as next year.
The Kobo Insiders program is a private community where the most hardcore users fill out surveys and have a discussion board where they can chat with each other. A few months ago Kobo asked their users about their interest in audiobooks and if they should start offering podcasts.
- Half of Kobo Insiders listen to audiobooks at the moment
- Insiders in the US listen to audiobooks more than any other country
- 44% would stop listening to podcasts if they had to pay for them!
- Thrillers and romance are Kobo Insiders’ favorite audiobook genres
- Only 1 in 5 of you think it’s important for Kobo to offer audiobook and eBook bundles
I think Kobo offering audiobooks really makes sense. Overdrive has a huge collection of audiobooks and loaned out 43 million of them in 2015. Overdrive did the smart thing and built their own ecosystem and established relationships directly with publishers. They have complete control over licensing their titles to libraries.
Kobo and Overdrive are both owned by Japanese company and recently the two sides have collaborated on the Kobo Aura One e-Reader. When the device launches in early September users will be able to browse the bookstore and search for e-books from their local library. They can then check them out and read them on their Kobo and the entire experience is optimized for e-ink.
I think it would be interesting for Kobo to introduce an audiobook service and integrate the listening capability into their Android and iOS apps. This would be the easiest thing to do because a large population of Kobo users have an Android smartphone, tablet or an iPhone and iPad. It also would be quite easy to add an online audio player to their website so people can listen to them online, such as their computer or MAC. If this proves to be successful they can think of adding speakers or a headphone jack to their line of e-readers and optimize it for e-ink.
This is all speculation obviously on my part, but Overdrive and Kobo have a working relationship right now and future collaborations are very likely. Kobo also has expressed interest in the audiobook business to their most loyal users and it looks like it is something they want.
Audiobooks are the fastest growing segment in publishing and it generated $2.8 billion globally in 2015, Kobo would foolish to discount them. In January and February of 2016 audiobook sales were up 30% from the same period of 2015. In the same time period, the sales of e-books fell 24.9%.
Audio is the missing piece of the pie for Kobo, it would allow them to better compete against Amazon who have been leveraging their Audible unit for years.
Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past ten years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times.