It’s Official: Kobo Screwed up the Launch of the Kobo Mini, Kobo Glo

On Monday I reported that you could find Kobo's 2 new ereaders in some stores in the UK and in Canada.  Like I noted at the time, the new devices are not available on the Kobo website nor can you find them in US stores (they're not even listed on some sites).

Kobo has confirmed today that they screwed up the launch. They have cheerfully announced over on their blog that both the Kobo Mini and Kobo Glo are available in some stores in the UK and Canada.

That's basically what I reported 4 days ago, but do you see what is missing?

Kobo hasn't released any details on when their retail partners in the US, NZ, Australia, or elsewhere will get the ereaders (though I am told Fnac has them in stock). Nor has Kobo said when we will be able to order the ereader via their website.

Can you believe they're not even available on Kobo's own website? Sure, they're listed, but the website still says "coming soon". And that, my dears, is a sign that something, somehow, got screwed up.

I have reached out to Cerys Goodall of Kobo for an update on when US buyers will have a chance to get the Kobo Glo and Kobo Mini. If she replies (LOL) I will update this post.

So, do you think they are having supply issues or distribution issues?

11 thoughts on “It’s Official: Kobo Screwed up the Launch of the Kobo Mini, Kobo Glo

  1. > So, do you think they are having supply issues or distribution issues?

    Given Amazon’s devices with the same screen are also in limited supply seems like supply is more far more likely than distribution. Amazon’s deliver dates are going backwards also.

    The dubious assumption underlying the “Kobo screwed up” hypothesis is that these new screens that haven’t been produced previously in large numbers are laying around in large number in inventory warehouses. Similarly, that a large fraction on of the appropriate worldwide device manufacturing production capacity isn’t being allocated to tablets from a wide variety of vendors including Kobo.

    The rolling distribution is probably deliberate though.

    > Can you believe they’re not even available on Kobo’s own website?

    If there is limited supply Kobo should throw their retail partners under the bus by diluting the limited supply even more? For a 3rd (or 4th in some locations) place market player, that would be a bad plan to engage.

    If they have more demand than supply they don’t need more retail outlets. Sure Kobo could hustle a slightly higher profit margin by selling direct, but they need solid partners much more than the slim margin bump that will give them. Selling the ebooks is what will really drive profits. Trying to juice the readers themselves isn’t going to work very well against their major competition ( Amazon and Nook ).

    > Kobo hasn’t released any details on when their retail partners in the US, NZ, Australia, or elsewhere will get the ereaders

    They also don’t need to commit to partners to dates they may not be able to keep. In the US, what retail partner still has Kobo’s on display? The current Kobo units may be listed on Target’s and Best Buy webstores but they have completely flushed the units months ago for the physical stores.

    In most Kobo Glo “first experiences” I’ve read the first thing the device does is download new firmware; sometimes twice so there are two reboots before useful. Before they switch to distribution to much larger set of countries (and timezones) they need to get a much more stable copy of the firmware to the factor for initial installation.

    The distribution problem for the US would likely be the relatively new relationship with the indy bookstores (and Borders implosion). It isn’t the logistics of delivering the units to the stores. That’s outsourced anyway. It likely more in getting things worked out how the stores will sell the devices. Pragmatically, they are going to be first tier support for the product for a significant user subset.

    Even if they do get Best-Buy , Target , Walmart, etc. to put devices on displays if those stores don’t have sufficient supplies to sell they essentially turn into “showrooms”. “Showrooming” is exactly why many of same stores are dropping Amazon Kindles. Kobo is an even easier product to nuke from the product line up.

    Kobo’s strategy isn’t bad. They can work out the initial “bugs” in their most solid marketplace ( Canada) where they likely will more easily draw forgiveness and also push the envelope in countries that Amazon and Nook don’t have as deep a footing in ( UK and then rest of major EU countries ). If they get to the USA buy mid-November they are still ahead of the bulk of the holiday buying season. If they take the lessons learned in the initial roll-out to improve the USA roll out, then the long term outcome will be better.

    P.S. The USA only strategy for Amazon equally likely is driven in part by supply limitations and working out the issues (e.g., the vocal minority groaning about the lighting not being absolutely perfectly uniform at all settings and ambient lighting conditions. )

    1. Your arguments about the supply does not stand up to scrutiny – not in the broad strokes, at least. The Kobo Mini uses the same 5″ screen which E-ink has made for years now. There’s no reason for it to be delayed. Like the black K4, the Kobo Mini should be available right now.

      Kobo’s strategy isn’t bad. They can work out the initial “bugs” in their most solid marketplace ( Canada) where they likely will more easily draw forgiveness and also push the envelope in countries that Amazon and Nook don’t have as deep a footing in ( UK and then rest of major EU countries ). If they get to the USA buy mid-November they are still ahead of the bulk of the holiday buying season. If they take the lessons learned in the initial roll-out to improve the USA roll out, then the long term outcome will be better.

      And I am going to have to disagree with you on a fundamental level. Kobo isn’t selling their own ereaders on their own website. This is, by definition, a screw-up.

  2. Every glow model released so far has seen supply issues. So that is almost certainly a part of it.

    But I think they have distribution problems as well.

    One thing I’ve suspected for a long time, due to a throwaway line on BKS financials, is that retailers that carry ereaders typically get a cut of the subsequent revenue. Kobo may have been even more aggressive than Barnes and Noble in this regard, which would explain how they grew distribution worldwide so quickly.

    Under new ownership, and with the agency model fading, Kobo may be trying to renegotiate.

  3. IIRC, The ABA (indie bookstore) deal definitely includes revenue-per-book-sale back to the indie bookstore which sells the hardware upon which the customer makes the e-book purchase. (This is distinct from the the website-sales deal which they are also launching since Google walked away from indie store websites.)

    My local indie bookstore, which is definitely participating in the Kobo transition, told me weeks ago that the ETA for hardware in their store is November. I bet that’s been pushed back now, too. I can wait because I want to throw them the hardware-sale business, even though I also understand that the retailer’s cut is only 5%. On a $129 Kobo Glo, that’s not exactly rolling in dough, especially if the store is only going to order a small number of devices.

    (Hope they don’t get snookered in trying to offload Kobo Arcs to tech-savvy customers. That’s going to be a lot of pain.)

  4. They only screwed up if the launch did not go as THEY planned, rather than what you think it should have been. In my realm of speculative fiction, Kobo had planned on launching in the UK and Canada on October 5 and achieved their goal. Speculating further, Kobo may have had partnership agreements with retailers in Canada and the UK that guaranteed that Kobo would not compete with them in device sales for some pre-determined period of time.

    The truth is not something I know because I do not know how the rollout was supposed to happen. And neither do you.

      1. Actually, it does make sense. There are advantages and disadvantages to brick and mortar stores as well as online store but Kobo selling online at the same time as their partner brick and mortar stores is direct competition. No doubt, they are holding back online sales until their partners have a chance to reap the launch high, at least for a while. Isn’t this exactly what they did when they launched the Touch?

        1. Since I posted this article, things have changed. Best Buy now has the Kobo Mini but not the Kobo Glo. That disproves your argument that this was a deliberate decision. Had this been deliberate BB would have gotten both devices.

  5. Okay – I have it on good authority Kobo never planned to sell them on their website at launch for various reasons. The launch was a stellar success and probably one of the smoothest ever.

    Americans are just so used to instant gratification – having to wait a bit is little difficult.

    1. And I have gotten hints that the US distribution did not go as planned. Please note that the glo is still not available in the US.

      Edit: In any case, if I am wrong then Kobo is welcome to tell me so directly. All this second hand defensiveness is not convincing.

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