By Michael Kozlowsk
Kobo Writing Life is a self-publishing platform and it was first unveiled in 2012. It was originally launched to compete with Kindle Direct Publishing and provide a viable avenue to sell books internationally. Kobo has faced many challenges in the marketplace and they are always looking for new things to try out to see what pops. The latest, is Kobo Next, an extension of their digital bookstore that exclusively promotes self-published titles.
Kobo Next is a relatively new section of the Kobo online bookstore that has been quietly building momentum for the last year. It gives readers a chance to discover new authors, they likely have never heard of. Not only are the indie books promoted online, but they are now included in mailing lists and newsletters.
Readers will appreciate the wide selection of popular content on the Next platform. There are dedicated areas for Romance, Thrillers & Mystery, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, and every few weeks they switch it around to Young Adult, New Adult, Fiction and Non-Fiction
Mark Lefebvre the Director of Kobo Writing Life outlined his philosophy on Next. ÔÇ£One of the main reasons weÔÇÖve done this is that there are so many great books by self-published authors by itÔÇÖs difficult to find them. And we donÔÇÖt focus on WHERE the books come from to our readers, because they truly donÔÇÖt care how a book is published. All they want is a good read. And our job, as booksellers is to help readers find the right books for them. For instance, readers donÔÇÖt go shopping and thinking ÔÇ£Okay, I want to go find a book from Random House to read.ÔÇØ Instead, they either look for an author they know they already like, or for a book in a genre that might enjoy. IÔÇÖve been a bookseller for almost a quarter century and every day, customers would approach with the idea that theyÔÇÖre looking for a good read and then they describe, roughly, the types of books they like. One of a booksellerÔÇÖs greatest joys is ensuring that those customers walk away with something great to read, and if you can help them discover a book or an author they might not have stumbled upon, and created a great connection between author and reader, thatÔÇÖs what a bookseller lives for.ÔÇØ
I hope that Kobo expands upon Next and puts all self-published titles in their own category and create separation from┬á traditionally published books. This would help draw further attention to new authors and would aid in book discovery. After all, its far easier to promote indie authors if they have their own unique area of the store and arenÔÇÖt competing with the big trade houses for readers eyeballs.
One of the big drawbacks of indie e-books being indexed alongside traditionally published books is authors gaming the metadata system. Two years a go a massive firestorm erupted due to hundreds of adult eBooks with topics ranging from threesomes to incest were being listed in the same category as kidsÔÇÖ books.┬á Major booksellers such as WH Smith shuttered their digital bookstore, resulting in thousands of customers unable to buy books at all. This was basically a Kobo problem, since WH Smith actually has a license with Kobo to sell digital books.┬á Not only did Kobo get dissected by mainstream UK media, but they pissed off authors by deleting over one thousand titles from their own Writing Life platform.
I have always been a strong proponent of sequestering independently published books into their own little area. This makes more sense than to have them all intermixed with everything else. I think Kobo Next is laying down the foundation of a separate area for indie authors, which is for the best.