Is Kobo e-reader a missed opportunity for magazines?
Kobo e-reader newsstand still does not carry a single Canadian magazine.
While it offers a range of Canadian newspapers, ranging from the Globe and Mail ($15.95 a month or $0.65 an issue) and the Edmonton Journal ($13.99 a month or $0.55 an issue) the only magazines it offers has not changed or grown and all are U.S.-based. For instance, Harvard Business Review ($7.95 a month), The American Scholar ($7.95), PC magazine ($2.49) or The Nation ($2.49).
Wondering why, and particularly wondering whether there was something that Canadian magazine publishers might want to consider, I sent a note to Michael Serbinis, the chief executive officer of Kobo Inc. Here was part of the exchange:
Q: I'd be interested (for publication) to know why the Kobo e-reader newsstand carries no Canadian magazines, though it does carry a range of Canadian newspapers. I have nothing against Harvard Business Review or The Nation, but why isn't Canadian Business or This Magazine available, too? Does this indicate a lack of interest on the part of readers, or publishers or both?
A: I would love to provide more magazines to customers in Canada e.g. Walrus, Maclean's, Canadian Business are some of my favourites. Some of the challenges:
1. Availability - Not many Canadian magazines are available in digital ePub format by their publishers.
2. Market readiness - related to #1 - The magazine industry is still in flux as to the direction it will take on digital content. Therefore, investing in one approach, only to throw it out in 6 months, is risky.
3. Little customer demand to date. It's not something our customers are jumping up and down for today.
I responded that Maclean's, The Walrus and Canadian Business all have iPad versions available, so it's not so much of a leap. As for a threshold of customer demand can customers opt for something that is not offered? Are they likely to call you and ask for specific titles? The Kobo e-reader is attractive because it is open source and works across many different platforms. (It is ironic that there seems to be so little appetite for magazines on it, the more because Chapters/Indigo is both a major player in the traditional single copy supply chain and a major shareholder in Kobo.)While some 150 Canadian magazine publishers are participating in the Digital Newsstand offered by Magazines Canada in collaboration with Zinio, what would the reason be for not pursuing other options such as Kobo? Comments welcomed...
Kobo has announced a new edition of its reader that has easier-to-navigate "touch screen" version of the reader.