Kobo Pulls a Bait & Switch


When Kobo launched a three-day sale on the Kobo Mini last week, they raised hopes that Kobo would be bringing back the beloved 5″ ereader. Now that order are arriving, it’s safe to say that ain’t gonna happen.

Update: Kobo has offered everyone a refund.

Several people on MobileRead have reported that Kobo hasn’t lived up to its promises. Rather than a new unit with a Pearl E-ink screen and gray sleepcover, we have all received years-old demo units with a ruby silicone shell:

Or I should say that I received a Kobo, but not what I ordered. They sent me a black “demo” unit and a ruby silicone back cover. The box actually says demo on the label and all the details on the back of the box are blacked out. Not at all what I ordered. I have a ticket open with them as I write, with a promise to call me back within 24 hours (we all know how that tends to go). I’m watching with great interest to see what others who ordered this bundle receive.

My order also arrived today, and I can confirm all of the details.

This is not the new device we were promised, but instead looks like someone recently found the retail boxes after they had been lost and forgotten in a supply closet for the past few years. That means the units don’t have the Pearl E-ink screen listed on the sales page (rather the older Vizplex E-ink screen), and it also means we got stuck with three-year-old batteries.

Here’s my evidence:

kobo mini bait switch

This is so far from what Kobo promised and what I was expecting that it’s not even funny.

Needless to say, I’m returning it. While I would be fine with getting an old demo unit, it should have been labeled as such and it should have cost considerably less.

This Mini cost me close to $60, and I can get a new basic Kindle with more storage, a new battery, and a better screen for not too much more.

Did you get one? Are you planning to keep it?

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. Anne9 November, 2015

    I will be requesting a return. I just hope they refund the shipping amount, as well as the item cost.

  2. Name (Required)9 November, 2015

    Can the battery be changed by the user?

    1. Nate Hoffelder9 November, 2015

      The case is held together by six tiny screws, so you might be able to replace the battery.

      You’d still need to find a battery on ebay, though.

  3. Glinda Harrison9 November, 2015

    I am so glad I decided to pass on this. I hope they refund everyone’s shipping cost, because this clearly sounds like false advertising!

  4. Bill Bradford9 November, 2015

    I preemptively received an email from their CS:

    “We are contacting you because of the recent Kobo Mini bundle purchase you made.
    Due to an error in our shipping software we sent the bundle with a Ruby
    Silicone Case instead of the Grey Sleep Cover.
    If you decide to keep the Ruby Silicone Case we will reimburse you $ 10 for your
    trouble. If you decide you don’t want the cover please let us know.
    Again, we are very sorry about this and thank you for your understanding.
    The Rakuten Kobo Team”

    1. Nate Hoffelder9 November, 2015

      @ Bill I got that email as well. Frustrating, isn’t it?

  5. Luvhilndr9 November, 2015

    Thank you Nate! That’s me quoted above. I’m hoping we get proper resolution to this “error”. I have requested a prepaid return shipping label and await further response from them. So very disappointed in Kobo right now.

  6. luvhilndr9 November, 2015

    I chatted with them and was told they would see if the original bundle items were still available. I would be given the option to receive those if they are indeed available or to receive a refund if they aren’t. I hope they stick to their word here because I really did want that original bundle. The one I received simply was not worth the $55.

  7. Anne9 November, 2015

    DID they actually have a new Mini with non-removable back and a pearl screen? I’m feeling so cheated. I never would have ordered the old Mini, a demo unit in fact. I wanted a new device, not a three year old leftover. Even my box is stained and dirty.

    1. Nate Hoffelder9 November, 2015

      It appears not.

  8. luvhilndr9 November, 2015

    Yeah, I feel cheated too. The nice sleepcover and updated screen were the main reasons I bought this bundle. Demo unit with a drained battery? Red back cover that leaves the screen exposed? No thank you.

  9. Jason9 November, 2015

    I came close to buying one and am certainly glad I didn’t. Kobo could potentially have a lawsuit on their hands. It’s flat out false advertising. WTF were the people that signed off on this stunt thinking?

  10. Anne9 November, 2015

    Did they think people wouldn’t know the items were not as advertised?

    1. Nate Hoffelder9 November, 2015

      Honestly, I don’t think they intended to deceive us so much as Kobo is a sloppy operation. The relevant info probably never made it from the person who saw the retail boxes to the person who created the listing.

      And I’m not sure anyone involved understood the difference.

  11. DavidW9 November, 2015

    I contacted Customer Service and it turns out to be a complete mistake. They accidentally shipped old demo units and ruby silicone cases instead of the new units with the sleepcovers. They are going to ship the correct units to all affected. My order was escalated and I should hear back from the direct orders department by tomorrow.

    1. Nate Hoffelder9 November, 2015

      Thanks for the heads up, David.

      I’m still waiting for Kobo to respond to my email.

    2. Nate Hoffelder9 November, 2015

      @ David

      Do you know what? On second thought, I don’t believe the excuse.

      My packing slip mentions a demo unit and ruby silicone case by name. That means that the order button on the Kobo website was set up to spit out the “wrong” packing slip. In other words, Kobo may have accidentally mis-programmed their system but they didn’t accidentally ship the wrong item.

  12. DavidW9 November, 2015

    I personally won’t believe it unless they follow through and ship me the correct ereader and cover.

  13. […] handelte. Nate vom Fachblog The Digital Reader, der sich einen Kobo Mini bestellte, fand diesen Vermerk sogar auf der Rechnung. Als Bildschirm kommt entsprechend natürlich ebenfalls das ursprüngliche […]

  14. beth10 November, 2015

    The battery on mine is holding up better than my old mini, so I will keep it. I did tell them I am really angry about the whole deal and want the correct cover. Waiting for their reply.

  15. […] – falsch gedacht. Wie sich nun anhand einer Reihe von Beiträgen bei Mobileread und Besucherkommentaren bei The Digital Reader herausstellt, dürfte in der Kobo-Logistik einiges schief gelaufen […]

  16. Bill Bradford10 November, 2015

    Just got my full refund via Paypal. Even if this is an old demo unit when it arrives tomorrow, I can’t complain about “free”.

  17. Julia E11 November, 2015

    I’m keeping mine, I have a Kobo mini that I’ve used for years and it’s starting to get tired which is why i was thrilled to find a replacement. But I didn’t like the red cover and have been emailing back and forth with no success. This morning they emailed I was getting a full refund which I don’t want,it is tiresome – and I suspect the person handling my request does not understand English well.

  18. B&N to let NookGlowLight Plus display library books—but how about those from other bookstores? Kobo Mini sale runs into snags, too | TeleRead11 November, 2015

    […] dedicated e-book readers. It isn’t just that sales have slumped. The Digital Reader tells of the calamities befalling trusting purchasers of the Kobo Mini, who thought they were buying new but actually were getting refurbished demo devices (refunds […]


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