I had a chance to catch up with Kobo’s VP of digital publishing, Ryan Shatner, to find out why the company went from the startup that gave us the free ebook newsletter to the publishing powerhouse that brought us the Kindle e-reader.
Shatner is in the news for his own book, The Amazing Adventures of Kobo, but he’s also a longtime digital marketer.
He says that he has been working on his own publishing business for about 20 years.
“It wasn’t until about 15 years ago that I realized the value of being able to make your own books available to your audience,” he says.
“I’ve had people come up to me and say, ‘Hey, I’m just a writer, I don’t have much time, but I’d love to read your book.’
And I say, well, how about if I do it for you?
I’ll send you a coupon code for your book, and you get the books, and that’s pretty cool.”
Kobo’s success with free e-books and Kindle book readers was not a surprise.
“The idea of creating ebooks was pretty common at the time, I think about 80% of the books that I’ve written were free,” he explains.
I thought, if we’re going to do it the old-fashioned way, we should pay publishers and then publish it ourselves.””
When I was starting Kobo in 1998, the idea of publishing books was a way to supplement the sales of the magazines that we were publishing, and to do that we had to pay publishers.
I thought, if we’re going to do it the old-fashioned way, we should pay publishers and then publish it ourselves.”
It wasn�t until about 20, 30 years ago, that I realize the value in having our own content to sell.
Ryan Shatson (left) and co-founder, Ryan Schatner (right).
Image credit: GettyImages: GettyRyan Shonner says that publishers have a “vast array of tools” to help with content, but it’s not enough.
“Publishers have to know what you want and you have to understand what your audience wants,” he tells me.
“You have to have content that people want to read, and there are a ton of great resources out there, but there’s also content that doesn’t make it to the print edition of the book, so it’s very important to have a lot of different ways to engage with your readers.”
He points to Amazon, Apple, Google, and other digital book platforms as a good example of the kind of content that Kobo is trying to get people to consume, but the company is also working to expand its reach through social media and mobile apps.
“We’ve been doing all kinds of things with social media.
We’ve been working with Facebook to bring our books to people on Facebook,” he points out.”
So when people have our books in their pocket, when they have their books in the app, when we get our books on their phones, when people can find us on the app to see what our books are, it’s a very easy way to connect with them.”
What we are doing with social is trying out a new way to bring books to our fans on Facebook.
And Facebook has a ton to offer.
We think they are going to be great for us.
As part of the push to increase the number of e-readers, Shatnner says the company has also been exploring the idea that it could make money selling e-Books.””
We’ve had some great success with that in the past, so we’re hoping that we can leverage that with some of these new platforms.”
As part of the push to increase the number of e-readers, Shatnner says the company has also been exploring the idea that it could make money selling e-Books.
“Now, in some ways, we’ve always done business with e-Bookstores,” he reveals.
“In the past we did the Kindle book.
And then in the future we’re also looking at offering e-Publishers a little bit more of a foothold, and we’re looking at selling books on Kindle.”
In the meantime, Shonnner is also looking to expand his product line.
“Now, Kobo has some of the most popular e-ink products in the world.
So if you think about the iPad and the Kindle, we also have some of those products as well.
So it’s exciting to see Kobo expand their reach in the next couple of years.”
Kobe’s strategy of offering ebooks as a service and then selling them to consumers seems like a great strategy for the company.
But what if consumers want the Kindle but don’t want to pay a subscription fee?
“We’re exploring that,” Shonned