Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Is Kobo e-reader a missed opportunity for magazines?

More than a year after it launched, the 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.
the new Kobo eReader Touch Edition features an amazing new Real Touch ‘page turn’ experience. Now easily turn pages by swiping or tapping the new Pearl 6” eInk technology 16 level grey screen that provides a superb, high contract reading experience even in bright sunlight.
the new Kobo eReader Touch Edition features an amazing new Real Touch ‘page turn’ experience. Now easily turn pages by swiping or tapping the new Pearl 6” eInk technology 16 level grey screen that provides a superb, high contract reading experience even in bright sunlight.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

In my experience, anything other than ePub reads very, very poorly on Kobo. It could be a terrible false start to make a magazine available in other format (eg: PDF) for that device. Also, the iPad is a much more sophisticated device, so comparisons are not fair. The Kobo, for one, is not a web-enabled device. So it is up to the mag publishers to work with Kobo (or a third-party developer) to create palatable ePub versions of their mags if they want to reach readers via that device. Why that has not happened yet is a bit of a mystery. Maybe pubs don't see Kobo as a leader in the marketplace, so they put their energies into web-enabled readers? Or perhaps ePub's limited display capabilities make Kobo less appealing?

12:34 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Magazines on eReaders? Ahem.

Nothing to see here. Paper is fine. Doesn't short circuit when you drop it in the bath tub.

Carry on. Go on. Shoo.

Signed,

Person gainfully employed in the newsstand business.

2:06 pm  

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