Kobo Strikes Deal With ABA to Sell Devices and E-Books Through Indie Bookshops

Starting in October, Kobo devices and e-books will be on offer at independent bookshops through a new deal with the American Booksellers Association (ABA), according to a statement from the Toronto-based e-bookseller this morning.

In January, a deal between the ABA and Google books that was intended to give independent booksellers purchase in the growing e-book market is set to expire, leaving the stores without a way to sell e-books. According to Google and independent booksellers, the program wasn’t much of a success for most of its nearly 400 participants.

According to the Wall Street Journal, which broke the story, many of those stores are expected to migrate to selling Kobo devices and e-books. Kobo intends to partner with all or most of the ABA’s nearly 2,000 member stores.

“We are very excited to work with the ABA and independent bookstores across America to bring an indie alternative to the e-reading market,” said Kobo CEO Mike Serbinis in the statement. “With this partnership, we are confident that independents will a world class offering for their loyal customers and a voice in the digital transformation.”

There is competition for the business of these small bookshops. Zola, a new e-bookstore set to open this September, has signed up about 50 bookstores to sell e-books through its e-commerce platform. The company told Digital Book World in July that it was in talks with the ABA to replace Google Books as the association’s e-book vendor.

According to Zola CEO Joe Regal, the ABA has reached out to Zola to confirm that the Kobo deal is non-exclusive and that the possibility of an ABA-Zola partnership is still alive. Since July, Zola has grown its base of bookstores from about 50 to “hundreds,” Regal wrote to Digital Book World in an email.

“Zola Books can be read on all web-enabled Kobo devices —as well as well as iPads, Nooks, and Kindles,” he wrote. “The ABA has personally expressed to Zola that Kobo is a non-exclusive option and that they are willing to integrate Zola Books with the Indie Commerce platform if their members are interested.”

Zola believes that its e-bookstore platform will offer indie bookstores a superior selling and community-building experience, according to Zola. The company has also added a key executive hire to help it gather more bookstores to its platform: Darin Sennett is the new Zola director of bookseller relations; he was formerly director of strategic projects at Powell’s Books, a small chain of bookstores in Portland, Oreg.

“Dozens of stores … are making us their primary (and in some cases only) choice,” wrote Regal. “Darin, of course, also brings some very meaningful relationships.”

With the Kobo deal, booksellers will share in the revenue from each e-book and device sold. Kobo has not yet returned request for comment on what exactly the revenue split will be. Kobo will also be providing support to the bookstores, in the form of training and in-store displays.

Kobo has been growing quickly since its launch two years ago and is thought to have about 3% of the U.S. e-book market. The company operates in more than 190 countries and has about 10 million registered users.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Kobo will be announcing a new lineup of devices soon. Its touch-screen e-ink e-reader retails now for $99.99 and its Vox tablet computer sells for $179.99.

Related: Kobo’s Michael Tamblyn Says “Publishers Should Experiment More”



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