Books written by Ray Sullivan

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Floodgate's Are Opening - Kobo eReaders on Discount at WH Smith

On Christmas Day I posted a blog entry (read it here) that made some spurious forecasts about the future of the eBook and general technology world.  It's too early to call on most of the forecasts, but one looks like coming to reality right now.  Specifically I suggested that the dedicated eReader is a beast of the past and is likely to be discounted after the holiday period to off-load unsold units.  Now it looks like the process has started.

WH Smith, the British newspaper, magazine, book and general stationery retailer that also acts as the front end for Kobo in the UK is discounting the Kobo Touch and the Kobo Mini eReaders to £30 apiece.  This is a heck of a discount, especially for the Touch, which normally retails at £80.

Of course WH Smith might have had a bellyful of eBooks - the Kobo hasn't captured the market share it deserved, probably because it entered the UK too late to stem the primacy of the Amazon Kindle range.  In a normal world the likes of the Kobo, which uses the industry standard ePub format, should have been able to trounce Amazon's unique format.  But never underestimate the power of the big A and the influence it wields.  I made a forecast about that too, that Amazon might be called to book over its dominance, but that's likely to be later in the year.

And WH Smith caught a cold over eBooks, too.  Their supplier, Kobo, didn't carry out the quality checks that Apple, for example, does.  One of those checks is to ensure that the content isn't likely to embarrass the hosting retailer - you know, perverse acts and references to illegal sexual activities.  A UK newspaper revealed that WH Smith was selling books promoting rape and child porn and a storm broke out.  Although WH Smith sources many of its eBooks from Smashwords, as does Apple, the failure to screen out unacceptable books led to the revelation.  They panicked and took the entire Smashwords library out of their bookstore - including my books, by the way - and as far as I know they never put them back.  Certainly my books aren't in there, although Kobo decided they were suitable a long time ago, reversing their initial suspension.

So it's possible that this discount is just WH Smith unilaterally disarming from the eBook world.  In part, I'm sure that it is, however I suspect that this will force other retailers to off-load their eReaders before they are left with them on their hands.  If you find yourself near a WH Smith in the next few days, consider picking up one of the Kobo's - they are both great machines - and keep a look out for other discounts.  This is a trickle, but one that's likely to breach the flood defences.

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