Kepler's partners with Kobo e-reader
Kepler's Books and Magazines ... and e-books, audiobooks, and MP3s: The landmark bookstore wants to let people read "their way," and on Dec. 1 plans to launch a new initiative to support Kobo e-readers.
The Kobo — an anagram of "book" — e-reader can handle non-proprietary formats, including those popular at the local library such as Adobe EPUB.
"We want people to be able to read in whatever format they want," said co-owner Christin Evans, who runs the Menlo Park store's operations.
It will not, however, work with Amazon Kindle titles. At least not directly; Ms. Evans said there is a roundabout way to download some Kindle titles to a PC and then use software to port them over to the Kobo.
"We're not trying to lock people's libraries up so they only buy from us," Ms. Evans said. "That is what Amazon is trying to do. We're trying to be much more open source."
Amazon's retail practices of late have not left fans in their wake. When it launched a "showrooming" campaign to encourage shoppers to scan prices at brick-and-mortar stores, then buy online at Amazon.com for less, competitors fired back — Target and Wal-Mart stopped carrying Kindles this year.
"We will continue to look at all the varieties of options that are out there and make selections based on what we believe is the right device for our customers," Ms. Evans said. Digital inventory shouldn't be a problem, as "most of the publishers that are providing books to Amazon are excited about offering titles through other retailers and e-readers."
Kobo currently carries about 3 million titles in its catalog, according to the American Booksellers Association. In August the company announced a deal with the ABA to replace Google as the e-books vendor for independent bookstores, after the Kobo e-reader reportedly had trouble getting a foothold in the United States marketplace.
Kepler's will have booksellers on hand at its digital labs station to help people use the Kobo, and recommend titles. Launching just in time for the holiday season, the e-reader will be bundled with a case and selection of books; the store will also receive a share of revenue from customers that create Kobo accounts through the Kepler's website.
Recently Amazon has expanded self-publishing options for the Kindle, allowing authors to list short stories and other works for sale. Will Kepler's follow suit with the Kobo?
"No plans at this time for a publishing arm, but it has been discussed," Ms. Evans said, laughing as she then reviewed the store's already-expanded slate of classes for writers. "We've had two workshops since we re-opened, and another this Saturday. There's so much interest in self-publishing ... how that will evolve over time, we'll see."