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Independent Booksellers Value Kobo Ebook Partnership but See Room for Improvement

Ten months after the ABA and Kobo formed a partnership to help indie bookstores compete with Amazon and other national retailers for ebook sales, booksellers are giving the program mixed reviews, according to Shelf Awareness, which talked to more than 50 merchants.

“Among the positives: booksellers like being able to give customers a digital choice and offer e-reading devices; many aspects of the program are an improvement over the old Google partnership; and Kobo has been more responsive than Google to booksellers’ concerns. Among the negatives: the low margins on Kobo devices and e-books; difficulties for some customers in designating indies through which to buy e-books; and erratic customer service.”

Booksellers say the Kobo name is not widely known and that customers who frequent independents tend to prefer paper books. Sales vary widely between stores, with independents in areas with commuters, students and younger customers doing a brisker business in the Kobo devices and ebooks.

Some booksellers also complain about the low margins, including one who is quoted anonymously saying,  “I need to sell about 15 to 20 e-books to make the same profit from one hardcover. I’d make more money by putting out a tip jar.”

But ABA CEO Oren Teicher says the program isn’t about profit margins, but about keeping customers at a time when readers want both print and digital books.