I've been participating in the forums here for a year, and following e-reading with some interest since the '90s, so I have a good handle on what's out there, and yet I can't help but observe the near total domination of the Canadian e-reading market by Kobo.
Kobo's marketshare was already almost at 50% in Canada life to date (overcoming the lead Sony and Amazon had from launching earlier than Kobo), and 55% in the 6 months ending August 2012. And that was all before the Kobo Glo was even announced, let alone released.
In the past when looking through flyers you would see a lot of Amazon and Sony e-readers in them. Whether it was The Source, or Staples, or Future Shop, or Best Buy, you almost always saw a Sony Reader, and sometimes an Amazon one. You might occasionally see a Kobo.
In the flyers that came in the mail today:
- Future Shop had a half-page spread on e-readers, 80% of which was Kobo (the only exception being a single Sony Reader) and accessories.
- Ditto with Best Buy (all four current Kobo offerings, including the Arc, taking up most of the space, and a single Sony Reader off to the side).
- Staples also had a big spread on Kobo readers, and no competing products were listed.
- Then there was The Source. In the past The Source has largely pushed Amazon offerings in my experience, especially the Kindle Touch. I remember walking past a Source once and seeing a Kindle poster taller than I was (and I'm 6'1") in the window. Not this time. There was a ten great gifts ideas flyer on the outside, with Kobo e-readers being one of those ten suggestions, but that was wrapped around their regular flyer which listed all three Kobo e-ink offerings inside in a half-page display, plus a re-iteration of the Glo near the back of this flyer-within-the-flyer. That's three separate references to Kobo in this week's offering from The Source.
What's made the difference? Obviously they're recognising that Canadians have embraced Kobo in a huge way, and I think the final straw was Kobo being the only major player in the Canadian market with a front-lit e-reader.
If you knew little about e-readers and were going to buy an e-reader as a gift for someone, what looking at those flyers would tell you is that Kobo's the only serious contender in the Canadian market. Whether that's even true or not, it would be hard to get any other impression.
It's astonishing. Is there anywhere else in the world where Amazon beat a competitor to market with the Kindle, only to have the Kindle later be surpassed (and not only surpassed, soundly trounced)?
Obviously I like Kobo, but I'm also a businessperson myself and I've been fascinated by the business behind this. My observation is that partnering with bricks-and-mortar stores that sell books is the key. Sony has partnered with Future Shop and other tech and office supply stores for years in Canada, and had early success with that, but then Kobo comes along and (because of their relationship with a dominant bookstore chain) passes them in marketshare crazy fast. Nook in the U.S. wouldn't be the strong second place contender it is without B&N, I don't think. Kobo's launched itself into the lead in France through its partnership with FNAC (and, though FNAC sells tech products too, they do also sell a lot of books). Even Amazon's Kindle success was on the backs of selling it to site visitors looking for books, I think, rather than site visitors looking for tech products.
I've long been fascinated by business, and it's interesting to see the aforementioned tech-store strategy be eclipsed by a bookstore strategy.
Sorry for the long post for those uninterested in the Canadian market, or those uninterested in the business of e-reading.