Kobo, ABA Renew Partnership For Another Year Even Though Indie Booksellers aren’t Selling Many eBooks

19987886105_93c22b9c0b_bIf you were surprised in late May when Kobo revived its defunct affiliate partnership with US indie booksellers then this next piece of news will knock your socks off.

Late last month the American Bookseller Association announced that its contract with Kobo was being extended for another year. Originally signed in 2012, that contract was set to last three years and included an automatic one year renewal clause, which has now gone into effect.

Kobo is also launching a new promotional campaign later this summer called eRead Local where indie booksellers can earn a $5 reward for each new customer they talk into setting up an account with Kobo. That campaign starts next month and runs for 100 days.

According to the ABA’s Indiebound website, around 500 booksellers in the US (out of 1,700 or so ABA members) take part in the Kobo affiliate deal. It’s not known just how many ebooks they’re selling, but if a recent report in the Denver Post is any sign then this deal is not having much of an impact on the ebook market:

Eight years after Amazon released the first Kindle, surviving independent bookstores are now selling e-books — and finding that no one really wants the ones they’re offering.

“It’s not even a drop in the bucket really,” said Arsen Kashkashian, inventory manager at Boulder Bookstore. “Our sales are up for the year and they’re coming from physical books.”

Boulder Bookstore sells e-books through Kobo and was previously part of a Google eBook deal. But Kashkashian said neither deal was “any good.” He estimates the store has about 10 customers who regularly purchase e-books, with a few other occasional downloads.

“I don’t have exact numbers but let’s say we make $10 off each hardback copy of (Harper Lee’s “Go Set a Watchman”). E-books make 50 cents,” he said.

Kobo had previously said that it has only a negligible share of the US ebook market, so it is to be expected that indies would see an even smaller share.

And anyway, ebooks are primarily sold online, so there’s really little point for indie bookstores to promote the format. Customers who go to indies aren’t there for the ebooks; the customers are there either for the book culture or to support a local shop. If that customer were really interested in buying ebooks then they would still be sitting comfortably at home, buying said ebooks online.

It almost makes you wonder why a bookseller would sign up in the first place, rather than for example have a fact sheet on hand to give to inquiring customers. The latter would be less work for equal financial gain.

P.S. And while we’re on the topic of Kobo’s deals with indie booksellers, there’s no word on the status of Kobo’s partnership with the UK Bookseller Association. That too was announced in 2012, but little has been said since then. (I’m going to follow up.)

image by d26b73plofiz

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. DaveMich28 July, 2015

    The Boulder Bookstore has an in-store book club, and the book they are discussing is The Goldfinch, offered alongside the announcement for $20 in paperback.

  2. Reader28 July, 2015

    Kobo has an agreement with indie bookstores to sell their e-readers. However, the two indie bookstores I checked out no longer stock Kobo e-readers, though you can order Kobo e-readers through them. One bookseller told me that the bookstore made only $5 on a Kobo e-reader, which was a strong disincentive for stocking them.

  3. fjtorres28 July, 2015

    If it didn’t work for Borders or Waterstones, why would Indie booksellers expect it to work for them.
    What they need to do is what Powell’s and several others did (still do?) and that is set up shop online for new and used pbooks, with in-store pickup, and a white-label ebook operation under their own name.

    And the ABA should be talking to a Chinese vendor for a decent ereader their members can group-buy and customize to point at their store. Combine it with some local deals, maybe emailing a monthly newsletter to the ereader and they might offer their customers a reason *not* to go elsewhere.

    1. ~B28 July, 2015

      Powell’s hasn’t done eBooks for quite a while. They just link to Kobo…

      It would be nice to see Kobo in some major US outlet, but it doesn’t seem likely at this point.

  4. Kobo, ABA Renew Partnership For Another Year Even Though Indie Booksellers aren’t Selling Many eBooks | The Passive Voice | A Lawyer's Thoughts on Authors, Self-Publishing and Traditional Publishing28 July, 2015

    […] to the rest at The Digital Reader and thanks to Michael for the […]

  5. Fbone28 July, 2015

    $10 or 50 cents.

    That says it all.

    1. Nate Hoffelder28 July, 2015



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to top