Kobos and e-books had little impact on sales at independents this holiday season, although the price reduction on Minis over Black Friday weekend and at the end of December, did help give them a boost at some stores. Porter Square Books in Cambridge, Mass., sold more than 25 Kobo e-readers the weekend after Thanksgiving. More typical was the experience of 20-year-old Broadway Books in Portland, Ore., which sold far fewer Kobos between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but had to reorder. Still, e-book sales were “negligible,” said co-owner Roberta Dyer.
For some customers, the Kobo is not their first e-reader. That was the case at Eagle Harbor Bookstore on Bainbridge Island, Wash., which reported selling 23 Glos and eight minis. “People are deciding if they want to give up their other e-readers,” said co-owner René Kirkpatrick. “But they’re enticed by knowing the e-book sales will help our store.”
At Carmichael’s Bookstore in Louisville, Ky., the Kobo was not a particularly big hit. “We probably sold four or five,” said co-owner Michael Boggs. “Part of the problem is that there’s a certain deception in the marketing . . . [about] how easy it is to use to buy Kobo books from me and put them on your Nook.” He had one customer who wanted to buy e-books from an indie but couldn’t download the software and, he suspects, will end up continuing to buy from Barnes & Noble.
Some booksellers simply don’t see their future in e-books. “We have no plans to sell Kobos at this time,” said Bob Ryan, manager of Wakefield Books in Wakefield, R.I. “We understand the popularity of the e-readers, but we’re going to cater to the print readers. We had many people come though our registers this month to tell us that although they may have Kindles and Nooks, they still want to give an actual book as a gift.” Beaverdale Books in Des Moines, Iowa, which did sell Google e-books, has decided not to sell them anymore. “It did nothing for us,” says owner Alice Meyer. “When people think of e-books, they do not think of Beaverdale Books.”
Steven Baum, co-owner of Greetings & Readings in Hunt Valley, Md., which once carried electronics, has no desire to return. “We left that industry when the sales tax was greater than the profit margin,” he said. “The Kobo is too little too late. E-book readers are already on a massive decline, because of the tablet.”
Other booksellers were soured by the Google experience and decided not to sell Kobos. “We did the Google thing,” said Grant Novak, manager of the Vermont Book Shop in Middlebury, which is not selling e-books. “[Owner} Becky Dayton’s prediction was true. As soon as they captured our customers, they absconded with the whole thing.”
Still others found the timing bad. Karen Rumage, co-owner of River Road Books in Fair Haven, Ct., said that she did buy some e-reader cases for the store, but hasn’t been able to attend educational sessions to decide about carrying the Kobo. “Kobo’s something I’ve not dived into because I haven’t gotten to the most recent trade shows,” she said. Suzy Takacs, owner of the Book Cellar in Chicago, sold the Kobo but not many. When they came in, the store was busy with events. Then the holidays hit, and she couldn’t devote much time and attention to promoting the devices.