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Kobo CEO Says Not Selling Washing Machines Key To Overtaking Amazon 207

Posted by samzenpus
from the we-do-one-thing-we-do-it-very-well-and-then-we-move-on dept.
DavidGilbert99 writes "Kobo, the Canadian-based ebook company is number two in the market, behind the behemoth that is Amazon. So what does the CEO Michael Serbinis think is the one thing which will allow them to overtake the e-commerce giant? 'We don't sell any washing machines, we don't sell radios. We are not focused on the next server farm to offer data services. It is a question of focus.' Serbinis goes on to tell IBTimes UK: 'From an organization standpoint at Kobo, this is all we do. Everyone at Kobo, all we focus on is creating a great experience for book-lovers.'"
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Kobo CEO Says Not Selling Washing Machines Key To Overtaking Amazon

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  • by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Thursday April 18, 2013 @07:19PM (#43488003)

    Everyone at Kobo, all we focus on is creating a great experience for book-lovers.'"

    Come on, how hard is it to not implement DRM?

    • Re:DRM? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 18, 2013 @08:31PM (#43488461)

      Isn't it the *publisher* that decides whether or not to use DRM? In which case the distributor (Kobo , Amazon, B&N, Diesel or whoever) have to offer DRM or DRM-free according to the publisher's wishes?

  • No Android App (Score:2, Insightful)

    by swillden (191260)
    I won't even seriously consider them until I can read their books on my tablet and phone. I was an early adopter of eBooks, buying my first Rocket eBook reader back around 1998, so I don't have anything against dedicated devices, but there's no longer any need, and I already carry a phone and a tablet which both work great as eBook readers... and with all three of the eBook reader apps I use I can even bounce back and forth between devices, reading on my tablet when it's handy or on my phone when the tablet
    • I won't even seriously consider them until I can read their books on my tablet and phone. I was an early adopter of eBooks, buying my first Rocket eBook reader back around 1998, so I don't have anything against dedicated devices, but there's no longer any need, and I already carry a phone and a tablet which both work great as eBook readers... and with all three of the eBook reader apps I use I can even bounce back and forth between devices, reading on my tablet when it's handy or on my phone when the tablet isn't nearby.

      Probably relates to the DRM issue above... Kobo's had an iOS app for ages.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      They've had a kobo app for Android forever...
      https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.kobobooks.android

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Kobo has an Android app [google.com].
    • Re:No Android App (Score:4, Informative)

      by Shrubbman (3807) on Thursday April 18, 2013 @09:42PM (#43488915)

      I won't even seriously consider them until I can read their books on my tablet and phone. I was an early adopter of eBooks, buying my first Rocket eBook reader back around 1998, so I don't have anything against dedicated devices, but there's no longer any need, and I already carry a phone and a tablet which both work great as eBook readers... and with all three of the eBook reader apps I use I can even bounce back and forth between devices, reading on my tablet when it's handy or on my phone when the tablet isn't nearby.

      Um.... did you even bother to check? Because yes Kobo DOES have an Android app, I've got it on both my phone and my rooted Nook Color.

    • Re:No Android App (Score:5, Informative)

      by Nerdfest (867930) on Thursday April 18, 2013 @09:51PM (#43488965)

      They do have an Android app [google.com]. They've had it for years.

    • by lxs (131946)

      I don't know what tablet/phone you have, but Kobo has both Android and iPhone apps.
      Of course the greatest selling point they have is that they are not Amazon. That whole employing Neo-Nazis to police their slave labour [time.com] / fucking over third party sellers [guardian.co.uk] / software patents thing makes me want to spend as little money as possible in their store.

  • by pbasch (1974106) on Thursday April 18, 2013 @07:22PM (#43488017)
    Maybe because they're Canadian, I found that Kobo was the only e-book reader was the only one that provided a decent, free, French dictionary. As a native English speaker reading books in French, this is a great feature. I also really like Kobo's interface. Will they be "the best"? I don't know... that's such an American obsession. Maybe they'll just be really good.
  • Except its a lie. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tuppe666 (904118) on Thursday April 18, 2013 @07:25PM (#43488039)

    Kobo Inc is owned Rakuten...who are Rakuten you may ask. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rakuten [wikipedia.org] Among its numerous online properties, its flagship B2B2C e-commerce platform Rakuten Ichiba is the largest e-commerce site in Japan and among the world’s largest by sales...in case you were wondering.

    Because I know you want to know http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=ja&tl=en&u=rakuten.co.jp [google.com] this is the washing machines they sell.

    • by ikaruga (2725453) on Thursday April 18, 2013 @07:35PM (#43488101)
      That doesn't mean that Kobo sells washing mashines. That is like saying that Youtube, which is owned by Google, provides a internet search engine.
      • Woah, woah, careful now. There are people who might be deeply injured by sentiments like "YouTube isn't the entire Internet" or "YouTube is owned by Google."
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Except you can now compare Kobo not with Amazon, but the e-book department of Amazon.

        I didn't really buy into the CEO's comments because I believe Amazon would have had an e-book team larger than their entire company. But I didn't think his conclusions must be wrong, because indeed the Amazon would adjust its e-book related operations to serve the enterprise's other interests.

        Now that I know Rakuten owns it, it's a different story.

    • by sa1lnr (669048)

      Or you could just use their English page. :)

      http://global.rakuten.com/en/ [rakuten.com]

  • That's why after i bought my first (and last) Kobo, it lasted exactly one year, not a day more, not a day less. Keep going Kobo, but without me.
  • by randomErr (172078) <ervin DOT kosch AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday April 18, 2013 @07:28PM (#43488055) Homepage Journal
    So said the buggy whip manufactures around the turn of the century.
  • by viperidaenz (2515578) on Thursday April 18, 2013 @07:34PM (#43488089)

    The problem is that they don't sell washing machines.

    Amazon make enough profit in other areas of their business (eg: advertising) that they don't need to make a profit selling eBooks.

    They have shared infrastructure that lowers the cost of providing their eBook service.

    Even if they make a loss selling eBooks, they'll still make money from additional customers hitting their ads.

    Kobo must make enough profit to pay for everything - hosting, development, HR, CEO bonuses - from selling eBooks and eBooks only. Their product is going to cost more or they will make less or even lose money.

    • by amiga3D (567632)

      At Amazon's e-book prices there is no way they can fail to make a profit.

      • Not Amazon's fault. Apple's. Amazon used to sell ebooks at ebook prices - new $18 hardbacks for $9.99 in Kindle Edition - until the "agency model" gave the publishers the upper hand.

        I don't think Amazon is a perfect company, but they definitely are pro-consumer in the same way that great multi-supplier salesmen all are - they want the best deal for the customer, not the supplier, and they collect their money for providing good customers to the suppliers.
        • by _Shad0w_ (127912)

          It depends on the publisher. All of Tor's e-books are sensibly priced and DRM free as a matter of policy.

    • by PCM2 (4486)

      The problem is that they don't sell washing machines.

      Amazon make enough profit in other areas of their business (eg: advertising) that they don't need to make a profit selling eBooks.

      This is actually the case with Kobo, too. As others have pointed out, Kobo is owned by Japanese internet giant Rakuten, which makes a lotta money. In their earnings statements, they don't even break out the Kobo division's revenue as a separate line item. So they said Kobo revenues were "up 143%" last year, but they didn't say how much they actually were. Thus I take their claim that they're #2 in the ebook biz with a grain of salt.

      • But Kobo don't share the same customers as Rakuten. Nobody is going to buy a DVD on Rakuten's website and get recommended a Kobo eBook the DVD was based on. Kobo are pushing themselves as a separate business, hardly anyone knows they're owned by a big Japanese company. In the American market that might even go against them.

        If you had the choice of the same product for the same price would you pick a local company or an international one? What if that international company was from the country that attacked

      • by Guspaz (556486)

        Considering that Kobo has very close to a majority marketshare in Canada (46% a year and a half ago, about double Amazon's), it doesn't seem surprising to me that they might be #2 globally. In the US, I would guess Nook would be second, but they don't sell it outside the US or UK, so it has a small marketshare globally.

  • by rjkimble (97437) on Thursday April 18, 2013 @07:41PM (#43488135) Homepage Journal

    I now start at Amazon for pretty much all my shopping. And I buy a LOT of stuff from them. I think they have a totally correct focus.

    • by Dahamma (304068) on Thursday April 18, 2013 @07:49PM (#43488199)

      Yeah, claiming that focusing on one thing means you somehow have an advantage at *selling* that thing (vs. providing the "best" product regardless of sales) is pure CEO babble.

      Case in point - Walmart. They don't really do anything well except being price competitive and stocking about a quarter million SKUs in one store. Compare to local businesses that usually have great service and do one thing really well. And we all know how that's turning out...

      • by demonlapin (527802) on Thursday April 18, 2013 @10:09PM (#43489093) Homepage Journal

        local businesses that usually have great service and do one thing really well. And we all know how that's turning out...

        What great service, and what one thing do they do really well? I've never been impressed with the service obtained at the sort of store that Wal-Mart has killed. Wal-Mart is open 24/7 at nearly all locations. In big cities this isn't necessarily a huge triumph, but - actual example from ca. 2008 - your iPod adapter dies at 8 AM on Sunday, in the rural South, just after the start of a twelve-hour road trip. If you're lucky, there will be a Radio Shack down the road that will open around noon. Wal-Mart? They're open, the nearest one is visible from the highway, and it's only 20 miles down the road, because they put stores in towns of 5000 people. You go inside, get your adapter for far less than the Radio Shack rape price, and maybe even pick up some snacks for the road while you're in there. I don't buy my steak at Wal-Mart... but commodity stuff? Absolutely.

        • by Dahamma (304068)

          I guess you are either too young to have actually experienced real small businesses in a town or from a really crappy area. Also, who gives a shit when all you are buying is a silly adapter where you already know what you want? The point of expertise and customer service is when you DON'T know what you want...

          1) electronics/stereo stores (Radio Shack doesn't count, are you kidding me?). Last time I went into a decent stereo/home theater store the salesman spent about 20 minutes showing me their cool demo

  • Kobo is an anagram (Score:5, Informative)

    by erroneus (253617) on Thursday April 18, 2013 @07:48PM (#43488191) Homepage

    I don't know why I am just now seeing it. I've always disliked the name and thought it was meaningless. But then I just realized it's "booK" with the letters all mixed up.

    • by Ford Prefect (8777) on Thursday April 18, 2013 @09:50PM (#43488957) Homepage

      But then I just realized it's "booK" with the letters all mixed up.

      I've always assumed it's some weird endianness issue. Which doesn't bode well for the actual e-books...

    • My guess is that they heard about this study's [slashdot.org] conclusion that you can reorder the interior letters of a word and still have it be entirely readable, then realized it was pointless to do it with "book" and said screw it.

  • by EdZ (755139) on Thursday April 18, 2013 @07:51PM (#43488217)
    No page-turn buttons? No sale.

    Sure, a touch-screen is nicer than a 4-way pad for selecting menu items, but I bought an e-reader to read books, not navigate menus. This is also my beef with the Kindle Touch/Paperwhite/whatever the non low-end models are called now. The basic bog-standard kindle, I can pick it up and hold it while reading without worrying if I'm about to accidentally turn a page, change the font size, exit my book, etc.

    I did briefly own Kobo's lower end model for about 2 days before returning it. That one did have buttons, but you also had to go and make a cup of tea between every page turn. Kobo no longer even sell that model, or any others with page-turn buttons.

    • by Guspaz (556486)

      I've got two Kindles, the first is the Kindle Keyboard (AKA Kindle 3), and the second is the Paperwhite.

      I do miss the buttons a bit. If I had it my way, I'd have the paperwhite with both a touchscreen and page turn buttons. The touchscreen is enormously better for doing pretty much anything else on the thing, be it buying a book, selecting a book, changing an option, chapter selection, etc. But the physical page turn buttons were better.

      That said, it's not that bad, and accidental page turns haven't really

  • by joelsherrill (132624) on Thursday April 18, 2013 @07:56PM (#43488257) Homepage

    Hmmm... and it is working for them to beat Amazon.

  • It's all well and good to be a one product company that does one thing really well. The truth is, you need to work with a lot of different organizations if you are in the E-reader business. And E-readers are no more end goals than Phones.

    This is where the size of Amazon plays a big role. Sure, they sell other stuff. But they sell books (dead-tree versions). And music. And movies. And they can sit down with publishers and set terms, sign up authors, make money off advertising, and do a lot of other things

  • Isn't IBTimes widely regarded as one of the slimiest sites around. Notice that, if you try to stop the auto play video it will wait a minute or two and then auto resume.

  • I know there's another site, can't remember the name, that let's you subscribe to all the ebooks you can read. If I were Kobo, I'd work something similar out. I'd give my ereaders free or severely discounted access to an online repo of ebooks "for rent". Also, make the damn things bigger.

    If they're going to say they're specializing, then they have to be the best in town.

    • They did just announce a 6.8" reader, limited only to this year, to see if it's popular. It also has the highest DPI of any dedicated reader at 264, the same as a retina iPad. I'm actually sort of considering getting it.

      http://www.techspot.com/news/52251-kobos-68-265-ppi-aura-hd-ereader-is-coming-this-month-for-170.html [techspot.com]

      I worry I will be disappointed by the title availability and price, and I really like Whispersync for Voice...

      • by ThorGod (456163)

        I read PDFs and epubs on my kobo often. It kind of sucks for PDFs, but it is usable and I've read plenty of PDFs that way. The navigation could be improved and the size of the reader limits reading PDFs to landscape mode, which makes about one paragraph legible at a time.

        I think I'd buy that if I knew the PDF problem was better handled...

        • I ended up getting an ten inch onyx boox for PDF files. Turned to landscape with PDF files set to fit width (or point to point to cut off margins) it's pretty good. I've still got a Kobo touch which is better for epub novels. I recently stopped reading a hardback and finished it on the Kobo instead since I can bump up the font size to put it on the table and read while eating. The only downside is some books with illustrations (eg. Simon Winchester's "Atlantic") don't have them in the kobo version.
      • by Guspaz (556486)

        It's still an eInk Pearl display, though. The different resolution displays all use the same eInk screen, but they put a different resolution of magnetic grid behind it.

        Having compared macro shots of my Kindle 3 and Kindle Paperwhite, I wonder if they're not getting near the limit of how much detail the Pearl display can resolve anyhow, regardless of the resolution of the magnetic grid behind it. On the Kindle 3, the pixels were very noticeably square, but by the time they hit the paperwhite they were a lot

        • by ThorGod (456163)

          Dude, nice. I appreciate that! (I, too, have an account on dslr!)

          Can you tell me if the increased dpi/resolution makes reading PDFs any better? Like if I increase the resolution on my laptop I can display more information in the same area.

  • I like how the journalist blindly accepts their claim to being the #2 e-reader, completely ignoring Google (aka Play bookstore), Apple, or B&N. This smells like a CEO blowing smoke in the hopes of unloading a money-losing business on somebody else.
    • by Shrubbman (3807)

      I like how the journalist blindly accepts their claim to being the #2 e-reader, completely ignoring Google (aka Play bookstore), Apple, or B&N. This smells like a CEO blowing smoke in the hopes of unloading a money-losing business on somebody else.

      They're #2 worldwide overall, although a lot of people don't realize it because they've had nothing but trouble trying to crack into the US market where they've been a distant also-ran from the get-go.

  • Slashvertisment (Score:2, Insightful)

    by GoChickenFat (743372)
    um...never heard of Kobo until now. #2, yeah right.
    • Seriously. Since when are they ahead of the Nook? I've heard of them before, but I thought they had dropped way back in recent years.

      • by Pulzar (81031)

        Global e-book reader shipments in the fourth quarter of 2012 will reach 4.57 million units, hiking 92% on quarter but dropping 49.1% on year, according to Digitimes Research.

        Thus, 2012 global shipments will reach 9.82 million e-book readers, decreasing 57.3% from 2011. Amazon will be the largest vendor in 2012 accounting for 55% of global shipments, followed by Japan-based Kobo with 20%, Barnes and Noble with 10% and Sony with 6%.

        http://www.digitimes.com/Reports/Report.asp?datepublish=2012/11/14&pages=V [digitimes.com]

      • by Guspaz (556486)

        Nook wasn't even sold outside the US until a few months ago, and even then they only expanded to the UK. So of course Nook would be way behind.

    • by mapuche (41699)

      You know Europe? I bought mine there.

  • Can't find the quotation, but early on he was very clear on Amazon having focussed on books, for what seemed like very good reasons. As I recall, the point was that there were humongous numbers of titles--far more than any physical bookstore could stock; there was a well-structured database of them--Bowker's Books In Print; shipping size and weights were manageable; and there were straightforward and fairly speedy mechanisms to get any book in print from any publisher--you or I might have trouble ordering d

  • I bought a Kobo eReader because I wanted to support my local bookstore and didn't want to support Amazon or Barnes and Noble. I think that their eReader is clearly third best (behind Kindle and Nook) but I'm willing to ignore that because they do have an Android app. However, Kobo uses the Adobe DRM which seems to guarantee that your library will become obsolete (maybe unreadable) in a few years. Adobe allows you to register as many as six machines (computers or eReaders) on your account and you can read
    • by dbIII (701233)

      I think that their eReader is clearly third best

      There's some european and russian ones better than all those three but they cost significantly more and there's not really much of an integrated bookstore. Where Kobo wins is they make it very easy for you to find a book on a whim from the device itself, spend money, and get it in less time than it would take to google where to find a torrent.

  • Um unless there hardware has changed drastically they sold me the worst ebook reader I ever had. Couple that with DRM, a loading at that byzantine and no droid reader app. How about selling something that people actually want is the way to beat amazon? For physical goods prime is hard to beat.

  • This is Amazon's own fault. The wife was looking for a ebook reading a long time ago, and the only realistic option was the Sony (the others were el-cheapo "Aluratek" and the like). Because Kindle and Nook were NOT AVAILABLE in Canada. And even when it was, you were importing it from Amazon US - no way to get it straight from Amazon.ca

    So Kobo jumped right in the big hole Amazon and B&N left by not offering their products in the Canadian market. People started buying Kobo's, showing it to their friends,

    • by Guspaz (556486)

      Nook still isn't, but the Kindle is sold by Amazon.ca directly now.

      When I bought my Kindle Keyboard, it was shipped from Amazon US, but the Paperwhite was a domestic shipment.

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