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Old 05-24-2010, 01:00 PM   #1
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Article on the Kobo from the head of Indigo

From the Toronto Star
http://www.thestar.com/news/sciencet...er-for-readers

Ebooks open new chapter for readers
May 24, 2010

Madhavi Acharya-Tom Yew


Heather Reisman is here to tell you that books will be around for a very long time.

“There is something special about a physical book. It’s an experience. There’s nothing like sitting around at home in your den with friends and all the books are out on the table,” she said in a recent interview.

It may seem like a strange sentiment from the founder and chief executive officer of Indigo Books and Music Inc., a company that is charging headlong into the blossoming world of electronic books.

Indigo spent May heralding the arrival of the Kobo eReader, a device and software application that aims to make electronic reading more enjoyable, affordable and accessible. It’s really not a contradiction, Reisman said.

“Kobo is about creating something that would allow everyone who wants to experience reading this way to be able to do it.”

Experts say that ebooks are reaching a critical mass and are poised for takeoff.

Amazon’s Kindle, the Barnes and Noble Nook, Sony ebook Reader are some of the most popular devices on the market, while Google ebooks and Apple’s iPad are also poised to revolutionize the world of books.

Industry analyst Sarah Rotman Epps of Forrester.Com predicts that ebook revenues will top $500 million (U.S.) in the U.S. alone this year, compared with $52.4 million in 2008.

Indigo developed Kobo with booksellers Borders Group in the U.S. and REDGroup of Australia. The Canadian company has a majority stake in the venture.

Indigo sold out of its first batch of Kobo devices in just days, Reisman said. She won’t reveal the quantity, saying only that was a large order. Reorders have since arrived and are selling well.

Priced at just $149, the Kobo eReader is far cheaper than the $259 (U.S) Kindle. It has also been getting good reviews from readers and technology watchers.

Like other ebook readers, Kobo uses eink, which is easy on the eyes — not at all like reading on a computer screen. Users can change the size and the style of the font.

The devices come installed with 100 classic titles from Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to War and Peace.

Kobo is the smallest of the eReaders — just 10 mm thick and weighing 221 grams. It can hold about 1,000 books.

Its most crucial feature, experts say, is that it operates on an open platform. When you buy a Kobo ebook, it can be downloaded your Kobo device or, if you prefer, your desktop, laptop, Smartphone or Sony eReader.

“Suppose you buy the Kobo and for two years you use it and you love it to bits and then you discover another device not made by us that you love. Your books are automatically all yours and completely transferable to whatever device you want,” she said.

“That’s the big bet we’re making, that consumers will want choice and they will want to know they have their books. “Once you create your library with us, it will go with you, whatever form you choose.”

Unlike Kindle, Kobo reader doesn't include WiFi or 3G wireless connectivity because it would have significantly increased the price of the unit.

In July 2009, Amazon remotely deleted some digital editions of George Orwell books from the Kindle devices of readers who had bought them. Amazon said that it did not have the legal rights to those books, but the move angered customers.

Ken Hardy, emeritus professor of marketing at the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario, believes the factors are in place for the ebook, which now has about 700,000 to one million users, to really take off.

“I think we’re near the takeoff stage in the diffusion of innovation,” Hardy said.

The simplicity of the devices, as well as cheaper price points will help draw readers. The more people read them, the growing potential from peers who ask, ‘Have you tried one?’ Hardy said. “That kind of forming pressure and it becomes like the iPad with people storming the retail gates.”

The concept will still require sustained marketing, he added. “If the buzz gets lukewarm and the heavy readers say, ‘It was fun for awhile but then I put it aside,’ that’s a bad thing.”

There are currently two million Kobo titles available. That will grow as Kobo expands into different languages.

Many questions remain about pricing. Like music, movies, and newspapers, the digital format and easy access has decimated the business model that sustained the publishing industry for decades.

Google has alternately thrilled and outraged readers, authors and publishers with plans to make a digital copy of every book ever written, and offer as many as one million free in the public domain.

Publishers and ebook makers are in the process of developing a sustainable pricing system that will also benefit authors.

There’s no question that ebook prices are substantially cheaper. Kitty Kelley’s massive hard cover Oprah biography sells for $9.99, compared to $19.25 online.

Today fantasy author Daniel Arenson is a big fan of ebooks, but that wasn’t always the case. When he sold his first story in the late 1990s, getting a book into print was a sign that you had made it.

“People who couldn’t get published in print were posting their stories online, going to different blogs or website, not getting paid for it. It was kind of the mark of an amateur if you went the electronic way.”

The explosion of ebooks is helping to turn this sentiment on its head, Arenson said.

His first book, Flyfire Island, came out in 2007. His publisher helped promote the hardcover book and he sold about 600 copies right away. Since then he has been left to promote the book on his own and sales don’t come easily, he said.

Last month, the book was uploaded to the Kindle store, where it has been selling about five or 10 copies a day.

“It’s a lot easier to sell ebooks than to sell print books,” Arenson said.

Even though the hardcover sells for about $25, only about 6 or 7 per cent of that, or less than $2, would end up in Arenson’s pocket.

Ebooks are cheaper, but the percentage paid to the author is much higher — about 35 per cent on Amazon — and there are rumours that will increase.
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Old 05-24-2010, 01:30 PM   #2
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The author seems to "get it" from the consumer's point of view.
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Old 05-25-2010, 02:41 PM   #3
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Can anyone verify that there are 2 million titles available from Kobo, as claimed in this article? It's impossible to tell exactly how many titles are on their web site, because if you browse by category, it only seems to list a maximum of 500 titles within any one category. But it doesn't look to me like there are 2 million titles there.
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Old 05-25-2010, 03:37 PM   #4
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Quote:
Can anyone verify that there are 2 million titles available from Kobo, as claimed in this article? It's impossible to tell exactly how many titles are on their web site...
Not to sound like an ass, but you asked and answered your own question...

I do, however, remember reading: "...Plus, 1000's of free eBooks."
But when I look on the free ebook section of the website, I only see 224 on the list....
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Old 05-25-2010, 04:10 PM   #5
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Stinger, if you read my posting again, you will realize (at least I hope so) that, first of all, I wasn't asking about the free books, but the ones they sell. According to the newspaper article, they have 2 million titles available. Secondly, I didn't answer my own question. I have no idea how many titles are available on their web site. Maybe you believe every advertising claim you read, but I don't. I wanted someone to corroborate their claim, if possible, or explain to me how to find these 2 million titles on their web site.
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Old 05-25-2010, 04:26 PM   #6
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David,
Sorry if I sounded a little crass, I meant no offense. I also don't appreciate being called naive for absolutely no reason...

All I meant was that you pointed out the Kobobooks limit of listing only 500 books per search, which as you mentioned, makes an accurate count pretty hard. So as I saw it, you asked a question, and then answered it (the same answer I would have given).

Question: Can anyone verify that there are 2 million titles available from Kobo, as claimed in this article?
Answer: It's impossible to tell exactly how many titles are on their web site, because if you browse by category, it only seems to list a maximum of 500 titles within any one category.
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Old 05-25-2010, 04:42 PM   #7
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Well, I'd still like some positive corroboration, one way or the other, by somebody who does know. And if they don't have 2 million titles available, they should issue a correction and send it to the Toronto Star, the publisher of the article. They may in fact be 2 million titles available, but you can't browse them on their web site because their web site is pretty much useless. You might be able to order them if you knew the title or the author, though.
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Old 05-25-2010, 04:46 PM   #8
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Personally, I'm skeptical about the claim as well. Their site is very poor to search and using "categories" to browse does not not give this number of books.
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Old 05-25-2010, 05:18 PM   #9
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If you do a search for ebooks on chapters - assuming the whole kobo library is indexed there, you get:

Under $20 Search incl. free:
51,366

and

Over $20:
971

That's 53,227 books total. Obviously nowhere near 2 million.
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Old 05-25-2010, 05:24 PM   #10
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On the Kobo site it says...
Quote:
# Huge selection - millions of titles including new releases, bestsellers, award winners
# Great Prices - $9.99 bestsellers, millions of free eBooks
Usually if a store is claiming that they have a link to Google's stuff but I don't see a link for that on their site. I find the site so horrible to navigate and search that it's hard to tell what all they have.


They do seem to answer queries posted here...
http://kobo.zendesk.com/home

Last edited by AnemicOak; 05-25-2010 at 05:27 PM.
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Old 05-27-2010, 09:33 AM   #11
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Kobo customer service

Thanks, I didn't know about their support web site. I posted a question on it a couple of days ago about another issue:

"I purchased a copy of "The Emotion Machine" by Marvin Minsky from the Kobo web site. I had no trouble loading and reading it, but the illustrations are missing! Is this a problem with the software on the reader, or were the illustrations left out of the ePub edition?

Less serious is a formatting problem, it seems. In many places (at least one or two per page), words are run together, or there are extra spaces in the middle of words. I didn't notice this with any of the 100 free books that were included with the Kobo (although I've only opened a few of them), so I don't know if the problem lies with the publisher (maybe they rushed it into "print" without adequate proof-reading), or with the Kobo itself.

If a new edition of a book is released with corrections, will I be able to download a fresh copy if I've already bought a previous edition? "

Here's their response. It's a good indication of how much they care about their customers. They seem to take absolutely no responsibility for the quality of the eBooks they sell. They just blame it on the publisher.

"Thank you for contacting Kobo Customer Care. We have escalated your issue for the pictures to our level 2 support and we will have an update via email shortly.

The formatting issue that you are asking about is a how the book is sent to us by the publisher. Once the book comes to us we cannot adjust the book by law. We in most cases request a better copy of the book to offer to our customers. Most of the request go unfilled. "
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Old 05-27-2010, 10:27 AM   #12
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@davidkettle - did you try downloading the epub version from the kobo site and opening it with a reader on your computer such as ADE or Calibre to see if the formatting issues appear there? It could be a font/character issue with the reader.
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Old 05-27-2010, 10:45 AM   #13
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davidkettle--have you ever asked a bookseller to revise or repair a book? They'll tell you the same thing--that they can ask the publisher but can't make the changes themselves. They're different parts of the business, and Kobo is like a bookseller; they distribute, they don't create. I'll bet you that Kobo really does have no control over the formatting of ebooks they get from publishers.
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Old 05-27-2010, 11:41 AM   #14
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Checked out the preview chapters on the kobobooks site. Looks like the issues are definitely with the publisher's conversion. They link to images (instead of embedding them in the page) and text formatting is off. I would tell Simon And Schuster you want your money back.

http://www.kobobooks.com/content/1-F...g/page1.html#4
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Old 05-27-2010, 01:40 PM   #15
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@mlstein -- It's a lot easier to update a electronic document than a printed book. But in any case, if there was a book with glaring typographical errors on every page and all the illustrations were missing, I don't think I'd buy it in the first place. No, I've never asked a publisher to revise a printed book, but I did once return a book to a bookstore because there were missing pages and I got a refund.

@dantaipan -- I didn't buy the book from Simon And Schuster, I bought it from Kobo. So if anyone should refund my money (and I think they should), it would be Kobo. Maybe Kobo should ask Simon And Schuster to refund their money, though.

Don't you just love it when people dump on you just because you have a legitimate complaint? DO I NOT HAVE A RIGHT TO COMPLAIN? Because this is new technology, are we supposed to accept crap like this? Are we a bunch of F*ING sheep?
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