About 300 independent bookstores have signed contracts or letters of intent to participate in the program recently announced by the American Booksellers Association to have Kobo devices and e-books sold by independent bookshops, according to ABA representatives.
The ABA and Kobo, a Toronto-based e-bookseller and device manufacturer, have seen a surge of sign-ups following a spate of regional booksellers’ trade shows at which the partnership was showcased, including the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance in Sept. in Fla., the Mountains and Plains Booksellers Association in Sept. in Colo., and several others.
In August, Kobo and the ABA announced a partnership in which the association would facilitate partnerships between Kobo and specific independent bookstores to sell Kobo e-readers and e-books. The deal occurred as Google was winding down a program, widely considered unsuccessful, to sell its e-books through indie bookshops. The Google program will close in early 2013. The ABA has nearly 2,000 member stores and nearly 400 of them had been signed up for the Google program.
Kobo has also inked a similar deal with the UK’s Booksellers Association and hopes to sell its products through some 1,000 stores in the UK and Ireland.
There is competition in the market. Zola, a new e-bookseller set to launch to the public next week has at last count signed up about 50 independent bookstores in the U.S. to a program that will allow them to sell its e-books. Zola is working without the ABA at this point but the deal between the ABA and Kobo is non-exclusive and the ABA has said that it will be seeking out additional partners.
This does indeed look like a promising start. Google's participation did not involve offering any hardware for the stores to sell, and having e-reader hardware tied to an e-book store has shown itself to be a more successful model than selling just one, or just the other. Kobo, in contrast, is offering leading-edge hardware to them for sale. On top of that, Google only managed participation by 400 stores, whereas the partnership hasn't even started yet and Kobo's already at 300.