Kobo Has Banned US Customers From Its Site

Update: No one else is reporting the same issue, so it looks like a mountain has been made out of a molehill.

Ever since Kobo and Walmart first announced their partnership earlier this year I struggled to see how this would have a huge impact on ebook sales. Consumers don’t go to Walmart to buy books, much less ebooks, so this deal looked like it would have about as much impact on ebook sales as a wet fart in a hurricane.

I was checking Kobo’s site this morning after updating my review of the Inkbook Lumos, and I discovered how Kobo has adopted a Microsoft-ian or Apple-esque solution to guarantee that Walmart will get its share of ebook sales in the US.

When Microsoft wanted in on the web browser market in the mid 1990s, they forced PC makers to install Internet Explorer with Windows. And when Apple found it couldn’t compete in the ebook market, in early 2011 it forced competitors to change their apps in ways that hurt customers (this is why ebook apps on iOS no longer link to web stores).

Now Kobo has adopted a similar practice in order to drive sales to Walmart’s 3-week old ebookstore, and in doing so they have cut off any customers who won’t knuckle under.

When I visited Kobo’s site this morning and tried to look at its apps and ereaders, I kept getting kicked over to the Walmart site.

Kobo has now banned its US customers from accessing its website. No matter what we do, we are forcibly redirected to Walmart’s website.

And to add insult to injury, when I do try to log in with my Kobo account, I am forced to answer one of the image recognition Captchas that have begun to infest the web (oh hell no).

I have had an account with Kobo since 2010 which I can no longer access. I haven’t bought a lot of ebooks there, so this isn’t a huge loss, but it is still annoying as hell.

I’m sure someone is going to tell me there is a solution, but frankly, Kobo has thrown so many roadblocks in the way that they are making it clear that they don’t want my business.

Fine by me.

image by ell brown via Flickr

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder 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. Bruce11 September, 2018

    What is it with ebook retailers? I try not to buy from Amazon because of their proprietary formats and “evil” trade practices, Apple’s DRM and app specific idiocy drove me away long ago and now Kobo is driving customers to Walmart of all places, home of the dubious labor relations.

    Why oh why can’t the small local bookstore thrive in this market? Whenever one pops up I try my best to support it, but looking for alternate ebook stores is a chore in itself.

  2. MikeJ11 September, 2018

    Huh. I’m not having anything like the problems you are. I have noticed over the last few weeks that Kobo’s login screen defaults to a Walmart account, but Rakuten Kobo is still a prominent option. In fact, the only problem I had was trying to log out to re-test it. I also tried browsing some from an incognito window and never got diverted to Walmart.

    1. Angela Korra'ti11 September, 2018

      I’m seeing the inability to log out too. I just confirmed that this morning, since I was still logged in on my browser and wanted to see if a) I could still make purchases, and b) whether if I’d be redirected to Walmart.com if I tried to log out. So far so good but I’m going to keep a stern eye on this.

  3. Wes11 September, 2018

    I can’t reproduce; though I have noticed the recent option to link a walmart account or login via a linked walmart account.

  4. Purple lady11 September, 2018

    I was able to log in using the Rakuten Kobo account, and I also got the image recognition Captchas. I was wondering if you only got that on your first login so I logged out, but when I logged in again I had to go through three different image recognition Captchas.

  5. Patrick Cassidy11 September, 2018

    The Captchas have been standard for me for months. And I haven’t noticed that I’m being directed to the malwart site, yet…

  6. Angela Korra'ti11 September, 2018

    I’m deeply confused; I too am still able to buy things on the Kobo site just fine. I did get asked to log in with a Walmart account by default when I last tried to log in, but I had no issues logging in with my existing Kobo account.

    I will keep an eye on this, though, and see if the behavior happens for me too. Kobo forcing U.S. customers to buy from the Walmart store instead would disgruntle me enough that it’d drive me over to finally buying the majority of my ebooks directly from Amazon.

  7. Apparition11 September, 2018

    Well, that’s one way to ensure that Amazon remains the king of eBooks in the United States. I wonder what this means for U.S. Kobo customers with a VIP membership subscription.

  8. Alex11 September, 2018

    Incorrect article. Kobo has only added support for the Walmart ebook store nothing else. No banning or anything ourageous.

  9. Paul11 September, 2018

    Maybe Walmart is planning to buy them?

  10. Angela Korra'ti11 September, 2018

    Oh and one other thing–as I’m an indie author I made a point of checking whether my titles are actually showing up on Walmart’s site now. They are. But I also have had it confirmed for me by a fellow indie with an actual walmart.com site that the purchase experience seems to be that Walmart is chucking customers over to kobo.com to do the actual purchase.

    If that’s what Walmart.com is doing it makes _no_ sense to me that Kobo.com would be trying to chuck customers back over to Walmart.com. So I’m _really_ hoping Nate just triggered some sort of weird transitory glitch with the two sites trying to talk to one another.

    I will be keeping a VERY sharp eye on this.

    1. Angela Korra'ti11 September, 2018

      Blah, typo, sorry! I meant to say “a fellow indie with an actual walmart.com account”.

      But also wanted to add that as I’m an SDET (web tester, specifically) in my day job I’m also wondering about this from that perspective, too. I expect the tech departments at the two companies probably had to do a lot of work to link the two sites up. And it would not surprise me at all if their deployment is buggy on this initial rollout.

  11. DaveMich11 September, 2018

    I’m not seeing it. Is it possible you have a cookie / login problem?

  12. Suzanne11 September, 2018

    They haven’t caught with me yet though I never log out of their site.

  13. Ana11 September, 2018

    I’ve just tried to login to my US Kobo account from Spain in my PC (I have more than one account from the time when Kobo was uncontrolly applying discount coupons), and I’m able to log in, I haven’t even been plagued with the stupid captcha, but the captcha pops up when I try to login from my Android tablet/phone (the same when I try to log in to my Spanish account)
    I suppose it will get corrected soon, or the US costumers they had with original kobo accounts are going to get pissed. It doesn’t work like that in other countries, in Spain there’s a bookstore associated to Kobo, but they just link the kobo ebooks in their bookstore and you are redirected to kobo if you want to buy an ebook (I suppose with an affiliate link so they get something from the purchase), and I Fnac in Spain redirects you directly to Kobo (I suppose it will work similarly in France)

  14. tired11 September, 2018

    False clickbait

  15. Bob Hoskins11 September, 2018

    Nate you just wasted precious space on the internet with this article. The only thing that is true is that Rakuten Kobo and Walmart have partnered to sell e-books, audio books and e-readers. I think you need to call tech support or maybe you have a VPN tool running that is routing you through Amazons offices?

  16. SheLuvs2Read11 September, 2018

    Not having any problems logging into Kobo.com from my US location

  17. Fauxfurbezoar11 September, 2018

    No problems here. You would think a tech writer would do a better job researching what they write about…

  18. soulspiritdebv11 September, 2018

    I’m not seeing it either. I can look at eReaders and order books the same as usual.

  19. Kattz11 September, 2018

    I’m in Canada. I have a VPN in my router set to a US server. Everything in the house goes through it. It looks like I have a US IP address.

    I had to do a factory reset on my original H20 (Kobo by FNAC, by the way) because the last update completely screwed it up.

    I was offered logins for my Canadian Kobo account, the new US Walmart account and FNAC (a French bookstore).

    I also have a Kobo Aura 2 which survived the update. It was setup before I got the VPN and it connects to the Canadian store just fine. That one is a regular North American Kobo.

    As far as Kobo can see, I’m in the US and I’m connecting OK to everything.

    Maybe try a VPN and use a Canadian server? It’s not such a bad idea to have a VPN for privacy/security reasons anyhow. You might want to try a factory reset just in case the last update did something weird to your device. I had to because I couldn’t connect to my wifi. The reset fixed that along with a few other issues.

  20. Not buying it11 September, 2018

    This is not true at the moment. I can’t speak as to why you had this issue, or if you actually did,but as of right now, Kobo is definitely accessible for me. A US ebook reader without having to utilize any sort of proxy. No redirects to Walmart occurring whatsoever.

  21. Andy11 September, 2018

    Extremely annoyed. This article is clearly wrong. It’s been 12 hours, The clickbait title is still up. There’s been no update from Nate apart from a line through one sentence at the end of the article.
    I have no idea your beef with Captchas, that’s just confusing.
    I’ve had no problem browsing Kobo eReaders or buying kobo ebooks in the last 3 weeks. I think you need to rethink your assumptions and apologize, dude.

  22. Dawn11 September, 2018

    I’m in the US and I can sign into kobo just fine.

  23. Brian Schaefer12 September, 2018

    “…so this deal looked like it would have about as much impact on ebook sales as a wet fart in a hurricane.”

    Nate, don’t drink and write. It’s profoundly unprofessional.

  24. Tim Middleton12 September, 2018

    so wrong about Walmart not selling books – I guess you don’t get salesdata Nate.

    1. Nate Hoffelder12 September, 2018

      Mass-market retailers like Walmart are selling fewer and fewer books each year:

  25. Vb12 September, 2018

    So is this article fake? Did I just waste my time reading?

    1. Nate Hoffelder12 September, 2018

      fake? No, I really did have trouble with Kobo’s site – I just went a little over the top with my description of it.

      1. Victor Bow12 September, 2018

        got cha!

  26. Kate12 September, 2018

    Just signed in to Kobobooks.com. No trouble at all.

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