Business Technology

Monday 15 September 2014

Eason strikes new deal with biggest rival to Amazon's Kindle

Women are the biggest readers of ebooks says the CEO of Kobo, which is about to launch in Ireland, writes Adrian Weckler

Published 03/11/2013 | 02:00

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EBOOKER: Mike Serbinis, CEO of Kobo, the main competition to Amazon's Kindle ereader.

WHO reads ebooks? According to the founder of one of the biggest ebook companies in the world, it's women between the ages of 25 and 45.

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"They're the early adopters in this industry," said Mike Serbinis, founder and chief executive of Kobo, Amazon's biggest ebook tablet rival in most parts of the world.

"It's men who are the followers. In Ireland, the market is in the low teens in terms of penetration."

Mr Serbinis, who still serves as Kobo's CEO despite selling the company last year for €240m, said that there is more than one way to crack an ebook market.

"Generally we find that we can make it to between the first and third best-selling ebook device or platform in most countries that we enter," he said.

"It's the way we do it that gives us momentum. So now we're announcing a deal with Eason that will give us a big push in the Irish market."

The Eason deal typifies the Kobo modus operandi. Under its terms, Eason will use its own brand name to sell ebooks from Kobo's online service.

The store will also physically sell the tablets.

"Most people get Kindles online," said Mr Serbinis.

"A lot of people buy our devices in stores.

"We think that people love visiting bookstores and this is why people are buying Kobo ebooks."

Despite this clever marketing strategy, there are still a few markets left to crack for ebooks. "There's a very low level of penetration with ebooks among kids," said Mr Serbinis.

"It's low single figures. Compare that to between 20 and 30 per cent of the market that digital ebooks have in romance fiction categories.

"So that's an area we can do better in. I also think that there's a massive opportunity in academic ebooks, which isn't being properly served at all."

While Mr Serbinis said that of Kobo's 16 million registered ebook customers, over half buy the ebooks on an iPad, PC, tablet or smartphone not made by Kobo. "Being honest, we have pretty much the same ebook catalogue as the Kindle," he said.

"And the devices aren't really that different.

"That means it's down to the way people can discover Kobo ebooks and where they can buy them. In other words, it's down to the experience."

Kobo is both an ebook tablet and an online ebook ecosystem.

While you can buy Kobo tablets – which are similar to Kindle tablets – you can also buy ebooks from Kobo by downloading Kobo's ebook app for iPad, iPhone, Android and other computer platforms.

Sunday Independent

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