Kobo and Chapters Indigo business relationship goes back a longways. Kobo became an offshoot of Shortcovers, which was launched in 2009 and comprised as an eBook reading app for Android and iOS. Within a year, it was live in 200 countries and started to make millions of dollars selling eBooks. Indigo management was pleased and due to the success of the app, Shortcovers split off and become known as Kobo. In order to make Kobo a real business, they borrowed money from Li Ka-shing’s Cheung Kong, Boarders and Indigo and this set them up to turn this business into what it is today, second only to Amazon in the e-reader and eBook market.
Initially Kobo was co-founded by the former CEO of Indigo Books and Music, Heather Reisman. In fact, she was pivotal in the traditional booksellers investing in Kobo, early on. When Reisman was asked why she co-founded Kobo if eBook sales were going to hurt her brick and mortar business, she famously said “If my business was going to be cannibalized, I was going to do the cannibalizing.”
The first Kobo e-reader launched in May 2010 and the first device needed people to plug their device into their computer and sideload in their own books. This was confusing to new users, so in October 2010 Kobo released the Kobo WIFI. You could buy books right on the e-reader and start reading right away. It was the first e-reader that really got promoted in Canada. Indigo/Chapters, Future Shop and many other retailers were falling over themselves to carry these devices.
As the years went by and Kobo was sold to Rakuten, they have always been headquartered in Toronto Canada and have been fiercely Canadian. Indigo has always sold Kobo e-readers in all of their bookstores and online and is one of the best way for potential customers to try before they buy, since Kobo has a dedicated display stand. Indigo staff are specifically trained on all of their electronic, including Kobo.
In an interview with Publishers Weekly, Kobo CEO Michael Tamblyn reflected about dealing with Indigo over the years. “I think we have evolved well together. Indigo, more than most book retailers globally, has been fearless in its willingness to experiment with what it means to be a bookstore, and what a retail experience can look like for someone who loves books and reading. Just as Indigo was early to embrace that a bookstore could be both aggressively online and enthusiastically bricks-and-mortar, it has recognized that a reader can move back and forth between print, digital, and audio continuously throughout their reading life. We just renewed our partnership again, and I’m thrilled to continue working with such a great team.”
So, it looks like Kobo renewed their distribution deal with Kobo for well into the foreseeable future. Customers will be able to buy e-readers in-store and online, in addition to being able to buy Kobo Books on the Chapters Indigo website, where customers can buy print or digital.
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.