If 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.)