We talked with the CEO of Kobo Michael Serbinis recently at Book Expo New York and he dropped some bombshells on new plans for his company later on this year. It seems Kobo is preparing both ebook lending and a portal for authors to submit their own ebooks to be listed in the Kobo ebook store.
Kobo has been one of the darlings of the ebook and e-reader industry with 3 readers to their portfolio with the most recent Kobo Touch to be available soon. They announced at the London Book Fair that the company will be opening up localized versions of their book store in the largest European Market, Germany. They are following it up with launches going in now such as Spain, France and other markets. Part of the benefit of this is that customers in the USA can access books in Spanish and French which is very appealing.
Kobo has big plans for 2011 with the advent of their new eBook lending program! eBook lending is a way that you can lend books to friends for up to 14 days, but only once. Two other companies right now offer ebook lending programs such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble. These two companies offer lending on select ebooks. Kobo although has not divulged all of their plans yet for the lending program, and said this is something they are working on and will implement by the end of the year. Michael said that one of the factors contributing to the malaise of the book lending industry is getting Publishers to agree to it. He mentioned that with independent publishing we are more likely to see lending take off.
Speaking of independent publishing, Kobo also has plans for an independent author portal where authors can have their books listed in epub formats to be sold in the Kobo eBook store. They did have a program that did this before but was randomly killed. This new program is comparable to rival programs such as Barnes and Noble PUBIT and the Amazon DTP. Kobo will be adding a new section to their book store for the titles that are self-published and will offer a conversion program for TXT, RTF, and DOC files to EPUB. Michael also mentioned during the interview that Kobo will even assist the writers in their marketing efforts. I can foresee Kobo having a revenue sharing policy comparable to the other companies only taking 15% – 30% per each sale.
One of the benefits of Kobo opening up book stores in foreign language markets is not only to have their store as assessable as possible but to foster an international self-publishing platform. This way an author can write a book in English, French, Spanish and German and have a much farther reach with their content rather then just focusing on English like most of the market. Right now Amazon is the global leading in self-publishing, but their reach outside of North America is quite limited. They have announced plans to also enter the German market but has not commented on their publishing aspirations there.
Kobo if anything has remained tremendously competitive in the ebook reader, ebook store, and e-reader application development scene. Their current iPad app Reading Life is heralded as the definitive application to read books and has raised the bar. It perfectly blends social media aspects along with statistics on your reading patterns.
In order for Kobo as a company rise to the next level and be on par with the biggest companies in the e-reader and ebook sphere, they have to implement ebook lending and a self-publishing program. These two facets puts them on even footing with their direct competition. It will also provide some much needed buffer area to expand while their emerging competition in other markets tries and catch up.
Check out our interview video below where we have the CEO on record talking about this. Also, make sure to check out our Kobo Touch Review.
Michael Kozlowski has written about audiobooks and e-readers for the past twelve years. Newspapers and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times have picked up his articles. He Lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.