Kobo No Longer Sells eReaders on Their Website

These images belong on a milk carton
Remember how I’ve been bashing Kobo for the past month or so about the new ereaders missing from the Kobo website?  It turns out that the lack of new gadgetry may have been a deliberate decision on the part of Kobo.

Last night a reader tipped me to a development on the Kobo website.  While I had been watching the site, waiting for the buy buttons for the new devices to appear, Isles had instead checked the availability of the one model with a buy button: the Kobo Touch.

Isles noticed something I had missed; the buy button didn’t lead to a product page.

Instead it lead to a page which listed retailer websites which carried Kobo products. Much to my surprise, there have been no Kobo products sold via the Kobo website for some weeks now.

I feel a little embarrassed for missing this detail, but in my defense the idea of Kobo not selling their own products is so crazy that I don’t think it would have occurred to anyone.

I mean, who would have thought it would be a good idea for Kobo to make it harder for customers to buy their ereaders? Just phrasing the question provides an answer.

Sure, an argument could be made for pushing sales to Kobo’s retail partners, and that goes double considering that Kobo has sister companies like Buy.com which are more than capable. But when you add in the simple fact that the distribution situation for Kobo’s partners is mucked up (few have the new hardware), and then cross it with the many potential customers who cannot buy from the retail partners which have it, this begins to be a problem.

And yes, the new hardware is important. The Kobo Glo and Kobo Mini are getting all the press and that’s what customers will go looking for. If they cannot find these ereaders there is no guarantee that they’ll get the Kobo Touch instead. My guess is that the potential customers will keep looking and possibly end up with some other device.

And no, the retail partners aren’t enough. How is a potential customer in, say, Argentina supposed to buy a Kobo ereader? I’m not sure they will successfully figure out which retail partner can ship there – besides Amazon. But even if they do figure it out, that is still a second best option to selling the customer an ereader right at the moment the customer is on the Kobo website.

I’m going to assume that Kobo has a long term plan to make sure everyone can buy their ereaders, but for the moment it doesn’t matter. Right now Kobo is losing sales everyday. By not selling ereaders on their website they’re losing potential customers to Amazon and to Barnes & Noble – 2 sites where people can right now buy the ereaders they are planning to give as Christmas presents.

While Kobo will likely get at least a few sales from the customers sent to the retail partners, they will not keep all of the customers sent away from the website. What’s more, a good part of those customers are going to be permanently lost to the competition.

So even if Kobo has a good long term plan, in the short term they just fucked up their holiday season.

8 thoughts on “Kobo No Longer Sells eReaders on Their Website

  1. I noticed that newegg.com only offers the Touch now through links to individual vendors who offer retired stuff.

    Could be a lot of things going on here: sheer supply problem; earnest effort to encourage indie sales by not flooding the web shopping e-market with them. Ingram (the hardware distributor to the indies) is offering generous return terms on initial shipments only. After that, Powell’s (or your local mom and pop) is taking a bigger risk: competing with Target/Best Buy/Newegg, etc. on price or eating Glos.

    One poster on MobileRead said s/he was told by one store that Black Friday was official launch. So a launch has had problems and delays. Wouldn’t be the first. Can’t be denied.

    As long as the indies don’t get screwed, [Shrug]

  2. “. . . but in my defense the idea of Kobo not selling their own products is so crazy that I don’t think it would have occurred to anyone.”

    Exactly. Kobo has abruptly, and without notice, decided to go against a major eReader sales paradigm.

    For years, if a customer wanted to buy the latest eReader, the first thing they thought to do was check the developer’s website. Amazon is probably responsible for starting this trend, but it just makes sense that customers could buy the device they want directly from the people who make it.

    B&N, Amazon, and Sony have all advertised and sold their eReaders right from their .com homepages. Even though B&N’s Nooks are sold in store, I imagine that a huge chunk of their initial sales comes from the pre-orders they get on their website. Apple has an incredibly prominent line of store locations, but you can still buy a new iMac from Apple.com. They haven’t stopped selling online.

    This is why this is so baffling: why wouldn’t Kobo at least offer pre-orders from Kobo.com? They could snag those impulse buyers and tech-crazy gadget lovers who hear about a new device and want to order it right away. Instead, the potential customer is directed to a page filled with links.

    This is the confusing part: there are seven links listed under “Where to Buy, United States.” All lead to different online retailers that are supposed to be selling Kobo devices. No matter what eReader’s product page you click from (Kobo Glo, Mini, Touch, or Arc), you are given this same list of links. Best Buy and Buy.com’s links offer the best results with Kobo’s devices listed right at the top of the page, and the Mini is in stock. Alternatively, when you click on the Target link, you have to scroll down past rows and rows of skins and cases, all the way to the bottom the page, just to find that only the old Touch and Wifi models are available. The Fry’s link has “Buhbo Animal eReader Covers” filling the whole screen instead of anything Kobo. My favorite is the Sears page which returns a “Sorry, We could not find any matches for ‘Kobo,’ please try your search again” message.

    It appears that instead of linking each individual device to its respective retailer’s product page, someone is just typing Kobo into a search bar and then posting the results to the “Where to Buy” page. Only Best Buy shows product listings for their new Glo and tablet, and no pre-order options appear to be available from any of these retailers.

    How many customers have just given up on this confusing search? As I said yesterday, it’s as if Kobo.com is saying: “Look how cool our new devices are. Now you have to figure out where to buy one and when they will be available. Good luck!”

    1. I think Apple created the idea first when they had iTunes and iPods all on the same site. Sony came second, though I don’t think their ebookstore is actually on the Sony Style website.

      And there’s a funny detail about that list of links. Several of the links lead back to the kobo website – the one where you cannot buy the ereaders.

      1. Currently, on the basic Sony.com homepage there is a Pottermore ad that will lead you to a PRS-T2 link, and other PRS models have been featured on Sony.com in the past. And yes, Apple originated the concept of pairing their content with a device and selling it from the same website, but I’m referring to the fact that eReaders are especially associated with purchase online.

        Ever since Amazon sold out of the Kindle 1 in just five hours after its release, people who want to make sure that they get the newest eReader look to pre-order it from the maker’s website (that is how I got my Kindle Paperwhite before they indefinitely went out of stock :D). Pre-orders give people a chance to commit to a device and get excited about its arrival.

        Kobo is now pushing sales off onto retailers who aren’t offering pre-orders. When most of the big name eReaders are released around the same time every year, this delay is bad news for Kobo. People will become impatient and order a Kindle instead, as you observed in your post. The harder it is to buy, the less it will sell, no matter what ‘it’ is.

  3. What is more baffling is that they don’t even have any of their ereaders in stores right now. Best Buy has the mini on display but none to sell. We are nine days from Black Friday. If you don’t have your product in stores by that day, then you are screwed for the holiday season. The new Kobo line is going to fail if no one can buy them until January.

  4. As one of Kobo’s retail partners, Powell’s Books sells Kobo eReader (www.powells.com/kobo). Plus, we ship internationally. So that potential customer in Argentina? They can get one from us.

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