Kobo Boasts That They Have 20% of World eReader Market, Forgets to Mention eBook Market Share

Kobo-and-Rakuten-300x218[1]There's a press release going around today from Kobo. They want you to know that they think they had a great year in 2012. They picked up an additional 4 million users, bringing them up to 12 million, and reportedly their sales also doubled. They're particularly pleased to report that they have 20% of the world ereader market.  Of course, that data comes from DigiTimes, so it arguably should be taken with a pound of salt. But do you know the most interesting bit of news? It's the detail which isn't mentioned in the press release.

Kobo talks about ereader market share, but they don't say anything about their ebook market share. That is the important detail because Kobo is not making money on ereaders.  They have to sell their hardware at a price which will compete with Amazon, and that's a problem.

Thanks to Amazon hardly anyone is making money on ereader hardware, so the claim of a 20% market share really means is that Kobo is probably losing money on ereaders at twice the rate of B&N (10% global market share). Telling the world that you're selling twice as many ereaders as B&N is not actually a good thing considering that it is very likely B&N is hemorrhaging money in Nook Media.

eBook market share is the important detail for any year end stats report and it was unfortunately absent. Something tells me that Kobo knows that their ebook market share is probably significantly under that 20% ereader share claim. Given that they are in a distant 4th place in the US market and in 3rd place in at least one of their core markets (Australia) as well as 5th place in Japan, another core market, I'd bet that Kobo's real ebook market share is under 10%.

Why the difference? First, there are all the markets which are mainly supported by a local ebookstore or distributor, but the main reason Kobo's ebook market share doesn't match the ereader market share is that Kobo doesn't have the same type of exclusive walled garden enjoyed by Amazon and Apple. Kobo has to compete for customers with many other sellers of Epub ebooks.

But at least Kobo has not lost what tepid support they have from Rakuten. Yay.

About Nate Hoffelder (11466 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader: "I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

15 Comments on Kobo Boasts That They Have 20% of World eReader Market, Forgets to Mention eBook Market Share

  1. Ingram is now trying to encourage indie bookstores to order and sell the new Arc.

    But talk about your quotas – the “deal” only lets 1 out of (IIRC) 5 Arcs ordered to be the lowest-price ($199) model. (But I think this is old news here – source was a PW article in one of your “Morning Coffee” posts, IIRC.)

  2. How are sales of that Arc tablet doing? Man, this is a miserable time to be a tablet seller. iPad Mini, upcoming Archos range, and then the Nexus 7.7. There isn’t room for everybody. It will be interesting to see what happens with B&N and hardware by the end of this year.

    • It’s a miserable time to have to pay for the tech support behind anything with DRM, like oh, all the major bookstores. (Losing telephones and short life cycles, OTOH, have gotten people used to the idea of disposable hardware.)

      Probably a great time to be a component maker, though. CEO of ARM was interviewed on Bloomberg West during CES and he could hardly contain his glee. He probably would have been rubbing his hands together if he wasn’t on camera.

  3. Well at least Kobo has finally updated their website to correctly direct American buyers to where you can purchase Kobo hardware. The Glo and the Arc direct you to Family Christian or to a local book seller by using your zip code. While the Mini adds BestBuy as a source. That’s better then before Christmas when I had to use this website to find where to get my Glo because the Kobo site was of no help.

  4. One more detail to consider: Kobo readers are ADEPT-capable.
    That means that their ePub walled garden is as leaky as Nook’s, if not more.
    That means that in most non-canadian markets they’ll be competing with Google, Sony, and regional generic ADEPT ebookstores for ebook sales. (Plus the Watermark-DRM and DRM-free indeendents.)
    No question they’re the big fish in the ADEPT pond but in some markets it is a pretty crowded pond. And drying up as Apple and Nook expand.

    • That is very likely the reason the ebook share doesn’t match the ereader share, yes..

    • The Kobo hardware universe plays the same partial-blindness game that all the major bookstores do – none of them will sync or store or cloud titles that weren’t purchased from their storefront.

      We know why ADEPT stores appeal (or don’t) to US, but it’s not exactly a porous border there for noobs. When I had to, at the request of a bookstore-owner, simplify the process of “How do I get my purchased books on my new Kobo?” for noobs (his potential customers), I could describe the process soup-to-nuts in an outline of no less than six steps if I wanted to keep the English plain.

  5. Politics and Prose in DC announced they were selling the Kobo Arc in today’s enewsletter. First time I had heard it mentioned.

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