Kobo pulled off an almost-clean sweep of the New Zealand market when it announced at the Frankfurt Book Fair this week partnerships with the two major bookstore chains Whitcoulls and Paper Plus, and the independent bookseller members of the Booksellers Association.
The deal could see Kobo tying up well over 80% of the bricks and mortar retail market with its devices and a deal that pays booksellers commissions on sales of Kobo ebooks to their customers.
The prevalence that this deal will give the Kobo brand in the New Zealand market is likely to prove a powerful counter-balance to Amazon’s Kindle which has benefited from the fragmentation of its competitors in other markets with none typically accounting for more than a few percent of the remaining market.
In terms of market share, New Zealand was already one of Kobo’s bright spots, even before this deal was announced. Its early partnership with leading bookseller chain Whitcoulls — combined with the continuing absence of competitors including Google, Apple and Barnes and Noble Nook — had given Kobo a relatively clear run. Its forthcoming presence in almost all book-related retail outlets is likely to label it a safe choice for consumers and provide a strong alternative to Amazon.
The overall market will also benefit from an injection of marketing resources and profile for ebooks. Figures from the Bowker international study released at the Frankfurt Tools of Change conference this week showed the New Zealand market lagging other key English language markets with just 15% of the online population purchasing ebooks in the past six months compared to 23% of online Australians and 22% each for the UK and US online populations.
Kobo also plans to push its self-publishing service, Writing Life, in New Zealand and is in discussions with the New Zealand Society of Authors to facilitate it. Kobo launched Writing Life in July to compete with Amazon’s very successful Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) platform.
Writing Life just received a major boost with this week’s announcement that it has acquired French digital publishing tools developer Aquafadas. These are professional-grade tools for producing advanced layouts from Adobe InDesign and QuarkXpress desktop software. Expect to see this technology at some point to be delivered online in a consumer-friendly version along the lines of Vook’s online production tools.
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Martin Taylor (@nztaylor) has been involved in the publishing, technology and internet fields for more than 20 years. He operates a digital publishing consultancy and founded the Digital Publishing Forum, an initiative to accelerate the development of digital publishing in New Zealand. In a former life, he published technology and business magazines.