Barnes and Noble and Kobo have been running their self-publishing programs for a number of years. The two companies do very little to promote their services via the standard PR channels and most authors are blissfully unaware they even exist. Should they continue to develop their indie author business or should they abandon them in attempt to refocus their efforts on their core business model?
B&N originally launched their first generation self-publishing program, PUBIT! in October 2010. The intention was to offer American authors the ability to self-publish their work for free and have it available on the main Barnes and Noble eBookstore. I was told by Theresa Horner, who is the spearhead of self-publishing that PUBIT never received any big updates and did not get enhanced in over three years. Last year the second generation platform Nook Press launched and allows authors to submit their titles to the US, UK, and most of Europe.
Kobo Writing Life was launched in late 2012, and was a fully developed system that allowed authors to sell their books all over the world. There are advanced tools to set the prices in different markets and even run promotions. The company made a splash promoting it at Book Expo America and had poster children Bella Andre and Kevin J Anderson.
Amazon is the runaway market leader in digital book sales, with many in agreement that they control 75% of the Canadian, US and United Kingdom markets. The Kindle Direct Publishing system nets authors more revenue than Kobo and Barnes and Noble combined. Authors frequently mention they get 100 sales on Amazon and less than 10 on the other platforms.
It is impossible to compete with Amazon with their Kindle Singles, Createspace, Kindle Worlds and their foray into established publishing imprints to get the books in real bookstores.
Many industry experts at the American Library Association Annual 2014 conference in Las Vegas think B&N and Kobo are playing right into Amazons hands. They train authors to self-publish, but do not give them any exclusive benefits to stick with them. It is quite easy to take your ePub, convert it to MOBI or PRC and distribute it to Amazon. Kindle Select gives authors an incentive to stick with Amazon by paying authors when their books are borrowed via the Kindle Lending Library or higher commissions.
Barnes and Noble has lost over one billion dollars on their entire eBook and e-reader business since first entering the market. Things have got so bad, that they have sacked most of their executive team, hired a new CEO, got investment from Microsoft and Pearson and intend on shedding the weight of Nook and spinning it off into another company.
Kobo has abandoned the US market and their Canadian interests are waning with the sacking of close 50 people at their Toronto headquarters and high level executives leaving the company to found their own startups. The Canadian government is investigating Kobo for the agency model and is forcing them to renegotiate their contracts with all the major publishers and abide by the wholesale model. It was this model that killed Sony and likely will kill Kobo in Canada if the court has its way.
Millions of dollars are poured into Nook Press and Writing Life and most people don’t realize how much executives, staff, development, promotion and maintaining the platform really costs. These companies would be better suited to shutter their programs and start sourcing books from LULU, Smashwords, Author Solutions and other established self-publishing communities.
B&N and Kobo are no longer focusing on their core business model. They have their hands in too many cookie jars and cannot be effective in the things that make them money, selling books. Instead of focusing on selling, they are spending millions of dollars trying to compete with KDP. The two sides simply are too egotistical to let Amazon control self-publishing completely and are willing to go broke fighting it out.
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.