A little over four months ago Kobo started polling authors for possible services it might offer through its Kobo Writing Life portal, and today it unveiled the first two services.
One is rather useless, but I suppose that we should give Kobo points for trying (at least give them credit for not getting into bed with Author Solutions).
Earlier today Kobo sent out emails informing authors that it had arranged a discount on ISBNs, and on audiobook production.
Authors who wanted buy a single ISBN can now get one from Bowker (link) for only $100, marked down from $125. An ISBN is basically a book's serial number, and aside from making it easier for Bowker to collect industry-level stats, it really serves no purpose for ebooks.
Kobo is offering a nice discount, but it's a discount on a product which many experts say you don't need, or at least one which authors do not need to buy. Both Pronoun and Smashwords will _give_ you a free ISBN if you distribute an ebook through their service, and Createspace will give you a free ISBN for the POD of your book.
Edit: And if you are in France, Kobo will give you a free ISBN for your books (there's no charge for ISBNs in France).
So no, you shouldn't buy an ISBN through Kobo's discount.
The discount on audiobook production, on the other hand, might be worth it.
Kobo's other news today was that they had partnered with ListenUp Audio to offer authors a $100 per hour discount off of professional audiobook production services.
ListenUp is a relatively new service, and I haven't found any authors who have used it yet. But Mark Leslie Lefebvre, the head of Kobo Writing Life, informs me that he's used ListenUp's service himself.
"Towards the end of 2015, wanting to ensure that ListenUp was everything we believed, I invested my own money as an author in their services and went through the exact same process that is now ready for Kobo Writing Life authors. (Fortunately, they gave me the special Kobo discount). I had the chance to experience, first-hand, the process an author will go through and was delighted with the speed, professionalism and sensitivity to my project and its needs," he wrote, adding "The terms they offer authors in their distribution package is, like their special Kobo-author rates, author-friendly. At the end of the process I ended up with a a professionally produced audiobook for my thriller Evasion narrated by Brian Troxell which will be distributed to the major audio retailers shortly (and to which I own the rights and possess the files -- allowing me to podcast the book."
ListenUp sells the audiobooks through its site and its iOS app, and it also distributes the audiobooks to Audible, OverDrive, and other retailers. Authors can of course also sell the audiobooks elsehwere, including through retailers like Gumroad or BitTorrent Bundle.
Lefebvre told me that Kobo had first met with ListenUp at BEA 2015 and spent the next several months making sure ListenUp "had both a sound business model and a sincere dedication to working with and helping independent authors who were serious about investing in audiobooks." Mark added: "We negotiated the best deal that we could for our authors and we were, of course, excited to know that among the various channels ListenUp distributes to (Audible, iTunes, etc), they also provide audiobooks to our sister company, OverDrive."
Under the Kobo deal, authors will pay $350 per production hour, and receive a pro quality audiobook (and all the rights). That's expensive, yes, and it could easily exceed what indie authors are used to paying for ebook production. But as some authors have learned, a well-made audiobook with the right narrator can outsell the print edition.