It’s not clear yet what is being allowed in, as so few titles are showing, but those that are include titles uploaded direct via Kobo Writing Life and titles uploaded to Kobo through Smashwords.
As yet we are not seeing titles uploaded to Kobo via Draft 2Digital, Bookbaby and other aggregators, but that probably reflects our small sampling quota, not policy.
So far we’ve been unable to elicit a response from W H Smith or Kobo, and unless we’ve missed something there’s been no official announcement, but this is surely great news for the indie movement.
I haven't been able to confirm the change yet, but a spot check of several prolific indie authors showed that they only had a few titles showing on the WHS Smith website out of a dozen or more titles on the main Kobo website.
What's more, the source (eBook Bargain UK) tracks this type of detail with a closer eye than I so I am reasonably confident that he is correct.
Can anyone confirm this report?
Update: I have confirmation from one publisher which sold ebooks via Kobo Writing Life, and David Gaughran pointed me to a second confirmation that his ebooks were added over a month ago while other indie author titles were still missing from WH Smiths.
If it's true then this would mark a changing point for Kobo, which reportedly hasn't sold indie ebooks through its UK partner, WH Smith, since October 2013.
Kobo and WH Smith made that decision following the mass panic in late 2013 over self-published erotica. Sparked by the tabloids Daily Mail and The Kernel, the resulting media coverage caused the major ebook retailers to pull whole swaths of erotic, including perfectly legal ebooks, based on little more than a keyword search:
For example, one self-published title that was swept up in the crowd was Babysitting the Baumgartners. This ebook was unquestionably erotica, but based on the listing onGoodreads it is not in the least bit questionable (other than the word babysitter in the title). ....
And then there is Riding the Big One, a gay novel which was originally published years ago and subsequently re-released by the author in 2010. And suddenly Amazon decided they won’t sell it anymore as an ebook, possibly because the description mentions the word teenager.
Kobo went even further, pulling all self-published ebooks from their UK partner's site, including all genres and even nonfiction. This purge later spread to New Zealand. (I see that a couple weeks later Kobo claimed to have restored the indie titles, but I have not confirmed that detail.)
Speaking of New Zealand, I see that Kobo's NZ partner Whitcoulls is no longer a partner. That retailer stopped carrying Kobo ebooks on its website in March of this year, and at some point in the past 8 months ended its relationship with Kobo. Whitcoulls no longer carries Kobo hardware in its stores, and the only mention of ebooks or Kobo on the Whitcoulls website is a page suggesting visitors go to Kobo.
Whitcoulls was one of the original partners when Kobo launched in late 2009. It was then owned by REDgroup, an Australian bookseller conglomerate, which was a founding capital investor in Kobo. REDgroup went bankrupt in 2011, and Whitcoulls was acquired by the James Pascoe Group and continued to act as Kobo's retail partner in NZ. It was later joined by Paper Plus, which a local source indicated is arguably the larger bookseller and remains Kobo's retail partner. (Thanks, Tom!)
Coincidentally, WH Smith recently announced that it was extending its partnership with Kobo for another four years. WH Smith became Kobo's UK retail partner in 2011.
image by The Nick Page