Kobo GM: Why Buy Books From Amazon?

By Jeremy Greenfield, Editorial Director, Digital Book World

Toasters, coffee machines and vacuum cleaners are all perfectly good things to buy on Amazon, the general manager of Toronto-based Kobo told us yesterday when we sat down with him for a product demo of the company’s latest e-reader tablet, but not books.

Books, according to Matt Welch, general manager at the e-reader manufacturer and bookseller, are best read on the Kobo Vox, the company’s new seven-inch, touch-screen, color tablet that ships to consumers today and retails at $199.

As we reported last week, the Vox signals several important trends for publishers, authors and e-book producers and distributers. And next week, we’ll be giving you the inside scoop on the Vox – what works, what doesn’t, and whether it’s really better than the competition, as Welch and Kobo product lead Jason Gamblen asserted in our sit-down yesterday.

For now, here are some salient points from our talk and a subsequent email exchange, including Kobo’s differentiators, what Kobo has to say to publishers and why Welch thinks nobody should be buying books from Amazon.

Jeremy Greenfield: What sets this new tablet apart from the Kindle Fire, for instance?

Matt Welch: We’re about reading, they’re not. In the 10,000 word press release they put out about the fire, only about two things mentioned reading. The Vox is all about reading.

JG: What do you say to publishers who have to worry about getting their books formatted and up on Amazon, the Barnes & Noble store, your store and others?

MW: If I were them I would want to sell a lot of books and I would want people to discover books. How people discover books is social and Kobo is social.

JG: That’s true. But through apps like Subtext, which made a splash this week with its new social app, other e-readers can be social, too. Will Kobo, which runs Android 2.3, allow Subtext and other social apps to be downloaded on the Vox and work with the reader?

MW: We don’t stop anyone from installing and using outside apps. We’re open. There are 15,000 free Android apps available on the Vox.

JG: What about the Kindle app?

MW: That, too.

JG: Speaking of Amazon…would you say that the best place to read Kindle books is the Vox?

MW: The best place to read Kindle books is nowhere, in my opinion. Why would anyone buy an e-book from Amazon? Freedom is a value held dearly in America and around the world. People should be able to transfer and read their books on any e-reader they wish, and don’t like being trapped in one ecosystem, which would be the case if they started building a Kindle e-book library. More and more people are realizing this, and are saying they don’t want to get stuck in the Amazon. They paid for their e-books after all. Why are they held captive? Readers get quite irritated (understandably so) when they learn they can’t they take their kindle e-books with them if they decide to upgrade to the Kobo social e-reading experience. I get it. This lack of freedom seems like a very un-American idea to me, coming from a very American company like Amazon. That said, I recently bought a very nice toaster, a coffee machine and a vacuum cleaner from Amazon, so I think it makes perfect sense to buy myriad different types of products from Amazon. Just not e-books.*

JG: So, what’s next for Kobo? Will we see a 10-inch tablet next year?

MW: I’m going to give you the old Steve Jobs answer – we don’t comment on product roadmap.

*Response edited from an email for style and space.

Write to Jeremy Greenfield

3 thoughts on “Kobo GM: Why Buy Books From Amazon?

  1. Longdale Blue

    Hmmm, he has got it all wrong about Amazon and as a result that doesn’t help matters in the ebook business.

    1. People like Kindle because it means one less account to have to create because people who buy on Amazon are likely to buy eBooks from Amazon.
    2. I can access Kindle on my iPod Touch and as a result haven’t had reason to buy a real eBook.
    3. I did have a Kobo app but then they started giving me problems and I ended up deleting them.
    4. Kobo was paired with Borders and we saw what happened to them, now that Kobo is a free agent, people feel safer with Kindle and Nook because it has backing.

    Kobo should set up shop with Books a Million (who currently sells B&N’s Nook) rather than focus on taking pot shots at Amazon every chance. Bragging doesn’t make me feel anymore more secure with Kobo and that is why my first ebook purchase was on Amazon.



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