If you ever find yourself in Portland, Oregon, you must visit Powell’s Books. Several years ago, my wife Sarah and I were out that way, and we visited Powell’s. Two hours and a huge stack of books later, we finally left. It was just that awesome of a bookstore. Unfortunately, the book industry is moving swiftly towards an ebook future, and Powell’s needed a reliable way to hitch on for the ride. They were dumped by Google when Google Books dropped outside vendors, but luckily for Powell’s they have a new dance partner: Kobo books!
According to Powell’s website:
At Powell’s, the only thing we enjoy more than reading books is talking about books. That’s why we — along with independent booksellers across the country — are partnering with Kobo to bring passionate readers together.Kobo has over three million titles in its world class catalog, and its powerful array of social tools has integrated readers around the globe into one vast, dynamic network of book lovers.Sounds like our kind of community.
It’s a good fit for both sides. In many ways they are facing different facets of common enemies: Barnes and Noble and Amazon. Powell’s is facing the same crunch as many independent bookstores, where there are limited buyers of paper books, and convincing those buyers to shop in their store over a mass retailer or convenient mail order can be tough. They do have a leg up being an iconic store in Portland, but that only gets them so far.
Kobo, meanwhile, needs a good foothold in America. They had a partner in Borders, but that disappeared with the Borders bankruptcy. In their native Canada they have a strong partner in parent company Indigo, and overseas they mainly compete against Amazon, since Barnes and Noble has been slow to expand internationally. Despite any advantages, Kobo is a very distant third. So partnering with the American Booksellers Association, and especially adding Powell’s, gives them a stronger retail presence and more brand expansion.
eBooks are still such a growing industry that there is a great deal of opportunity. And while Amazon and Barnes and Noble certainly dominate, there’s plenty of room for Kobo (and their bookstore partners) to carve out some marketshare for themselves!
Update: Nate at The Digital Reader gave me a heads up that Powell’s is selling the Kobo Glo and Kobo Mini. For right now they only show up if you search on the Powell’s site, but it’s worth checking out!