Mike Shatzkin wrote a post this morning on Kobo's new partnerships (in the and in France) and how those deals were going to make Kobo one of the major ebookstore competitors. I had a rather interesting experience yesterday that really makes me wonder if that is true.
I went up to NYC yesterday to attend a comic book convention. While I was there, I attended a conference session on self-pub and how the aspiring writer could use Barnes & Noble's PubIt to get their content into the Nook Store. B&N organized the session, which is why it focused so heavily on them, but the panelists did discuss B&N's competitor, Amazon.
They mainly talked about why they didn't like Amazon's platform and why they preferred B&N over Amazon, but they did provide reasonably accurate info. But the most interesting detail in the discussion about the various platforms was that Kobo was never mentioned.
Not once - not even as an afterthought. All the authors and publishers on the panel talked as though there was a binary choice: Kindle vs Nook, and that tells me something about Kobo's market presence. Admittedly, my experience could just be a marketing fail for Kobo, but it could also be a sign that they are not nearly as important as we give them credit for.
I think that the discussion I witnessed was an accurate reflection of how the panelists viewed the ebook market. Kobo isn't even on their radar. At the very least, I would have expected Kobo to be mentioned as an alternative to Amazon on the international market but they weren't. This leads me to wonder if the trifecta of "Kindle, Nook, and Kobo" is really a valid statement.
I'm beginning to suspect that we call Kobo one of the major ebookstore because of the perception that they are important, not because they have a major market share. If I'm right, then the perception that Kobo is a major player comes from the echo chamber that is the publishing press. Everyone has heard enough times that Kobo is a major ebookstore that we have just come to accept it without actually looking at the numbers.
And what limited figures I have for Kobo's market share independently support this idea. I'm told that Kobo has around 2% to 5% of the US market, with the vast majority of the market taken up by Amazon and Barnes & Noble (and Apple coming in third with around 10%). And this figures aren't estimates; they're based on what publishers are discussing off the record.
What do you think?