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Kobo Content Sales Up 60% in 4th Quarter 2017 – Mostly Due to Tolino

It turns out Kobo has a lot in common with the major trade publishers; in both cases,  much if not all of their growth comes from acquisitions rather than growing sales.

According to Rakuten’s annual report to investors, which was released in February,  Kobo’s net content sales were up 60.4% in the firth quarter over the same period in the previous year.

The report also showed that Overdrive’s total checkouts were up 17.5% in that same quarter.

Rakuten did not reveal any additional detail in the report or in the presentation for investors. In fact, Kobo wasn’t mentioned in the presentation at all.

Did you look at that first chart?

Kobo got a huge boost when they took over operations of Tolino early last year, but ever since then their revenues have declined. That comes as a surprise given that I have not heard any complaints from users which would indicate they were turning away from Kobo.

And yet, that is probably what is happening given that Overdrive did not see a similar dip in checkouts, and Author Earning reports showed that the ebook market continues to grow.

Have you stopped buying your ebooks through Kobo/Tolino?

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daniel April 19, 2018 um 3:13 pm

My earnings through Tolino went down this year….

Disgusting Dude April 19, 2018 um 3:15 pm

1- Kobo, like Apple, Google, and Microsoft, depends on legacy publisher ebook sales more than Amazon.
2- Legacy publishers have been intentionally driving their ebook sales down for several years.

1+2=3, as in:

3- If people across all platforms are buying less legacy publisher ebooks then it follows that the p!atforms that depend more on those sales would show it more strongly on their bottom line.

(Amazon has been making up the lost legacy ebooks with KDP Select and APub sales. Kobo carries neither.)

You have been reporting on Kobo’s recent Indie publisher outreach efforts for a while. Now you know why they are more actively courting Indies.

Mark Williams – The New Publishing Standard April 20, 2018 um 7:05 am

"Kobo, like Apple, Google, and Microsoft, depends on legacy publisher ebook sales more than Amazon."

That rather ignores the fact that 22.5% of Kobo sales came from Kobo Writing Life in 2016. Hoping to have 2017 numbers shortly.

The full share of indie author sales on Kobo will be considerably higher as many more will be selling on Kobo through aggregators like Smashwords, D2D, StreetLib,, PublishDrive, etc

Disgusting Dude April 30, 2018 um 3:20 pm

That does not refute my statement.
I never said Kobo doesn’t sell indie ebooks. And they are selling more.

Nonetheless, Kobo still depends on the BPHs more than Amazon, who not only sell more indie books, but also sell a ton of APUb titles. So BPH ebooks are a smaller fraction of Amazon ebook sales than Kobo. Ergo, Kobo depends on the BPHs more than Amazon.

Is that hard to follow?

Xavier Basora April 19, 2018 um 9:10 pm

Kobo needs to creste its own imprints and talent scout new independent authours.

Mark Williams – The New Publishing Standard April 20, 2018 um 6:55 am

"Author Earning reports showed that the ebook market continues to grow."

At best AE shows the US market continues to grow. But even that’s debatable given the last report did not show that, indicated past reports may have exaggerated sales by counting books in multiple categories as multiple sales.

The new BookStat report, of which we are shared a tiny part, measures sales differently and there is therefore no useful comparison between the 2018 and 2017 reports.

A closer look at this on TNPS soon.

M. April 21, 2018 um 8:19 am

Wait, does Kobo actually distribute ebooks to the Tolino system? I thought they only took over managing the devices.

Nate Hoffelder April 21, 2018 um 8:39 am

I thought Kibi was just the technical provider, not content, but apparently Kobo is counting Tolino content sales as its own.

Ebook Industry News Feed: The latest updates on digital books April 23, 2018 um 1:20 am

[…] Kobo sales declining despite acquisitions 19 April 2018 (The Digital Reader) Kobo gained a boost in sales by taking over the customer base of German ebook platform Tolino last year but, overall, sales continue to decline. […] » Kobos E-Book-Umsätze wachsen, und schrumpfen zugleich, beides dank Tolino? April 25, 2018 um 9:15 am

[…] Ein gutes Beispiel für die magische Umsatz-Steigerung ist Rakuten-Kobo, wie The Digital Reader berichtet: im vierten Quartal 2017 gab es zum Vergleich zum Vorjahresquartal ein Umsatzplus von 60 […]

Hannah Steenbock April 27, 2018 um 5:05 am

I use D2D to put my books on Tolino.

After almost a week, Thalia still hasn’t listed my latest release (you can only buy Tolino books through their partner bookstores). Which means I cannot point Tolino users to my book through Books2Read yet, even though D2D has pronounced my book as "published" on Tolino.

To me, it’s merely annoying but it could easily explain the loss of Tolino’s market share. Their internal system is so bad the books don’t go out to readers quickly enough, and so readers go for Amazon, after all.

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