Remember last week when I reported that Family Christian Bookstores had signed up as Kobo's latest US retail partner? The partnership was formally announced today, and FCB is already selling Kobo hardware on their website.
That was fast.
FCB now lists the Kobo Mini and Kobo Touch on their website, and they also show that the Kobo Glo and Kobo Arc are coming in the next couple months. This chain is also planning to sell the hardware in all281 stores across the US, but they will not be selling Kobo ebooks. Instead they will act as an affiliate and send customers to Kobo's website to buy ebooks.
This is going to put FCB in the same position as the ABA members who just started selling Kobo hardware in the past few weeks. Like the indie booksellers who make up the American Bookseller Association, FCB is showrooming and providing sales support Kobo in exchange for an affiliate's fee on future ebook sales.
Earlier today MobyLives, the house blog of Melville Publishing, heaped much scorn on the UK bookstore chain Waterstones for basically being Amazon's lackey while at the same time praising the ABA for having a nearly identical relationship with Kobo. (Lots of people in publishing are blinded by their hatred of Amazon.)
As I see it, none of the junior partners are going to come out ahead in the long run. All are handing any long term relationship with their ebook-buying customer over to Kobo or Amazon, and as soon as the Kobo and or Amazon decide they don't need a brick-and-mortar partner any more they will walk away with everything.