Kobo Wants to Turn Writing Into a Game

By Jeremy Greenfield, Editorial Director, Digital Book World, @JDGsaid

E-bookseller and e-reading device-maker Kobo hopes to compete with Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other major players in the self-publishing platform space by turning writing into a game.

At the end of June, Toronto-based Kobo will open its new self-publishing platform Writing Life to the public. The service is currently being tested in private beta with 50 authors.

According to Kobo, Writing Life will have new features released every month to chip away at a long list of capabilities that the company would like to add to the service. One of the chief features will be bringing its signature gamification to the writing process.

By the end of the summer, authors who use the Writing Life platform will earn badges for selling books in multiple countries (Globetrotter badge) as well as for doing things like working late at night (Midnight Oil badge). The badges will be socially shareable so writers can interact with each other through the Kobo tool.

“Our goal is to work well with all authors,” said Mark Lefebvre, who is heading up the project at Kobo as director of self-publishing and author relations.

The long term plan for Writing Life is to have all authors, many of whom may not even use the Writing Life tool to publish and sell their books, interact with the interface to track sales, track social engagement with their books across the Web and, of course, earn and share badges.

In addition to gamification, high on the company’s product development roadmap is integration of social tracking tools that authors can use to see when readers comment on their work on Facebook or using Kobo’s embedded social reading tools. Notifications for authors about when their books are trending in certain countries or on certain, highly specific best-seller lists is also a high priority.

Despite the high level of competition in the space with Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, Barnes & Noble’s PubIt! and many others, Kobo has high hopes for Writing Life.

About 3,000 people have so far signed up to receive notification of when the service goes live, said Lefebvre – up 1,000 in just the past day.

Although Kobo wouldn’t share with Digital Book World specific expectations for number of users by year’s end, Lefebvre said that the company had “pretty high expectations. This is going to continue to be a growing business.”

Write to Jeremy Greenfield

2 thoughts on “Kobo Wants to Turn Writing Into a Game

  1. Jen Talty

    I spent a lot of time with Mark and the staff at Kobo at BEA this week. I’m very excited about their new dashboard. We have been uploading to Kobo through an FTP system for a couple of years. While it’s not terribly difficult, the sneak peak I got into the new dashboard will make publishing with Kobo much easier for the author. I also love Kobo’s approach to authors and how they want authors to succeed across all platforms. I think Kobo will do very well with this new system and I’m excited for what it will bring to connecting readers to authors.

  2. Evelyn Trimborn

    It is great to get new voices heard, so long as everyone understands that while the technology is great, if there is little to no ability to promote and market the writing effectively, there will be hardly any sales per book despite all of the authors’ efforts. And the more books there are on the market, the harder it will be to get your book to the top of the list of bestselling work. Again, self-published authors need to have realistic expectations about how many books they will sell, how much they can earn, and what it is like to become a publisher, not just a writer.



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