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Kobo Glo is Finally Available in the US – From Powell’s

November 13th, 2012 by · 16 Comments · hardware news

It’s been well over a month since Kobo’s retail partners in the UK and Canada started selling Kobo’s latest ereaders, but thanks to Kobo’s refusal to stock their own hardware on their own website interested buyers in the US have been out of luck. Until today.

Update: One reader has pointed out that Kobo doesn’t seem to be carrying any ereaders on their website anymore. How bizarre. Thanks Isles!

I’ve just ordered my Kobo Glo from Powell’s Books.

This Portland based indie bookseller announced a partnership with Kobo last week, but it wasn’t until this week that they updated the website to include product pages for the Kobo Mini and Kobo Glo as well as cases for the 2 ereaders. There does not seem to be any mention of the Kobo Touch or the Kobo Arc, though.

But I did see mentions of ebooks. From what I can tell Powell’s is handling the ebook sales strictly as an affiliate; they’re not selling the ebooks themselves on their website but instead are sending customers to Kobo.

That’s not a good thing. It’s going to inhibit any bookseller’s goal of engaging with readers and it’s also going to let Kobo build up their customer base at the expense of the indie bookseller.

It’s also a marked change from Powell’s past ebook efforts. Powell’s was one of the many indie booksellers who signed up with Google when the Google eBookstore was launched back in 2010. In fact, I would go so far as to say Powell’s was one of the flagship partners, but they along with all the rest were left in the lurch when Google announced the imminent end of the reseller program back in April of this year.

Powell’s Books

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16 Comments so far ↓

  • PeakVT

    Powell’s did offer ebooks directly, without Kobo, until recently. Either that wasn’t working well for them, or they don’t have much of a choice now that Google has cut off indie booksellers from whatever program it was offering. Remember that while Powell’s has a fair amount of recognition nationwide, in the end it is still an indie, albeit a very large one.

  • oj829

    That’s not a good thing. It’s going to inhibit any bookseller’s goal of engaging with readers and it’s also going to let Kobo build up their customer base at the expense of the indie bookseller.

    Agreed, agreed, agreed. I have not yet seen a single store do anything but append that ABA number to the URL and send shoppers — to a different store. WTF?

    I was hoping that at least, one could fill one’s shopping cart with Kobo books WITHOUT leaving the indie site — exactly how ABA/Google work today.

    Well, for my part, I’m doing some more bookshopping before the Google deal finally dies with my indie. We are down to the last few weeks of that experiment, and thus the last few weeks of the retailers actually getting a decent cut. I also want Google to look at my buying history drop like a rock so they’ll be all “Hey, baby. What’s wrong? Why don’t you like me no more?”, and I’ll be all, “Oh yeah, you want this? Well you LOST this.”

  • oj829

    Couple other notes:

    * the Touch has never been a big part of the indie push. The Glo and Mini offer a completely wireless setup, which the Touch does not. This is significant because it is (so far) claimed that:

    1) a Kobo account created on the indie-purchased hardware is permanently “affiliated”, without the customer jumping through any hoops.

    2) any book purchase made on the indie-purchased device is automatically “affiliated”. No hurdle at all on those impulse buys. Nice, if it’s really true.

    Jury’s still out. I have asked my indie to closely monitor his ABA reports against my buying history to see what actually happens.

    * Finally, while no one trying to run a bookstore needs business advice from me, I don’t think I would recommend any struggling indie bookstore jump into an attempt to sell Kobo Arcs, however attractive they are in that $200 market space. (And they are not the joke that the VOXes were…

    can be setup, and a Kobo account created,

    • Nate Hoffelder

      The problem with setting up either of the new Kobo ereaders wirelessly is that the process is a pain in the ass. I actually had to go through the setup process 4 times because the devices could not seem to remember my network settings after they updated themselves.

      • oj829

        Been there, done that, and it does indeed suck.

        Also sucky: Kobo’s firmware pushes which will do that to you all over again. :)

        I have been uncharacteristically Mary Sunshine about every tech setback. I see it as an opportunity to inform my local store staff – some of them behind the curve a bit – on things that their customers might come in screaming at them about.

        I’ve already made a difference! The owner finally got WiFi set up in store.

        (Me, horrified: “You HAVE to get that done. Listen to me. You HAVE to.”)

        • Nate Hoffelder

          I would think that doing the required firmware updates for the customer (before the device leaves) would be the absolute minimum requirement for decent customer service.

          And that reminds me that I have to go update the Kobo desktop again before they will allow me to read the ebooks I bought. Don’t you just love how user-hostile Kobo is?

  • Isles

    I don’t think Kobo is going to be selling any of their devices from their website anymore. Notice that all of the “Coming Soon” buttons (that stood in the place of missing “Buy Now” buttons) have been removed, and you can’t even buy a Kobo Touch from their website now.

    All of the “Where to Buy” tabs take you to a page filled with retailer links, half of which have no or limited stock of their new eReaders (none of the US listings have the Kobo Glo, and Powell’s isn’t mentioned anywhere for some strange reason).

    Could it be that Kobo doesn’t have what it takes to be in the individual supply game? I’m sure all of that shipping & handling didn’t come cheap for a small company like them. All of their new device description pages look like product advertisements, not purchase listings. It could be that they have decided to use retailers from now on. If not, why can’t we even buy an old Kobo Touch from kobo.com?

    • Nate Hoffelder

      The Touch is also gone; I didn’t notice that earlier but you are correct. I guess they got out of the device selling business. Weird.

      BTW, the reason Powell’s isn’t listed is that it is one of the ABA affiliates. Kobo probably didn’t know Powell’s had received any stock.

      • Isles

        I noticed that they stopped selling the Touch from their website about a month ago. I thought it might have just been a brief shortage in supply, but I have been checking back periodically and they have never been re-listed. Again, best guess is that they don’t want to deal with the hassles and expense of selling directly to customers. They seem to be pushing everything off on to retailers, which must be very confusing for customers given their 50+ link “Where to Buy” page. The Sears link doesn’t even return listings for any of their devices (you get a “Sorry, we could not find any matches for Kobo” error message). The rest of the US links lead to preorder options, pages filled with third-party eReader cases, or only the Mini/Touch offerings.

    • Lyman

      ” … Could it be that Kobo doesn’t have what it takes to be in the individual supply game? … ”

      Kobo is owned by the same folks, Rakuten, that own Buy.com and other online facades. It is entirely redundant to run a physical device storefront when other parts of the parent company sell/distribute/ship a whole host of physical devices/objects.

      • Nate Hoffelder

        I think Isles is right. Kobo got out of the device retail game because they don’t have the chops.

        Just because other parts of Rakuten can pull it off doesn’t mean Kobo can. Look at the current retail situation and tell me I’m wrong.

        • Isles

          @Nate, agreed. Kobo has had serious issues handling their supply chain for months now. The release of the Kobo Glo—which I can only describe as schizophrenic—is a key indicator of this. For awhile, I thought that Kobo might have been windowing the Glo so that indie bookstores could get an edge on sales, but now I’m not sure what is preventing them from being sold through Best Buy or another major retailer. They send them only to small bookstores here, but make them available from Indigo in Canada and WHSmith in the UK.

          I love Powell’s and independent all bookstores in general, so I hope that this initial period of exclusivity is good for business. The idea of getting independents in on the digital game is a good one, but as oj829 points out, there are a number of complications involved.

      • Isles

        True, but couldn’t they settle on just one storefront instead of offering a whole slew of links (most of which don’t have their devices in stock yet). In doing this, Kobo is basically saying: “Our website contains all the details about our current devices. Now you figure out where to buy one.” I don’t see why they couldn’t centralize everything through Buy.com. They could ship globally from one retailer and provide a direct link from their product pages. The other stores will still carry and sell Kobo devices in-store and online, but do they need to offer every possible option on one “Where to Buy” page?

  • willem

    I will be happy to be proved wrong, but it seems pretty obvious that bookstores and ebooks are incompatible. The interesting question is why so many ebook advocates seem in denial of this.

    After all Google got out of supporting the Indies because there was no money in it for them, or anyone else. Sales were below anemic and it is very doubtful that a single Indie even recovered their sunk costs. Of course if it had been a ‘success’ it would have driven their buyers out of their physical stores even quicker.

    In the digital age the bookstore is a problem without a solution. Extinction is their inevitable fate, the only question is whether it will be a long drawn out decline or a sudden collapse.

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