Kobo Inc.

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Rakuten Kobo Inc.
Type Subsidiary
Industry eBooks
Founded Toronto, Ontario, Canada (December 2009 (2009-12))[1]
Founders Michael Serbinis
Headquarters Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Area served Global
Key people Takahito Aiki (CEO)
Greg Twinney
Michael Serbinis (Founder, Former CEO)
Products eBooks, eBook reader, Reading apps, Tablets
Owners Rakuten
Employees >500
Website www.kobo.com

Rakuten Kobo Inc. (previously Shortcovers[2]) is a Canadian company which produces the Kobo eReader, as well as a line of tablet computers and applications under the Kobo brand.[3] It was founded in December 2009 in Toronto, Canada, where its headquarters is currently located.[4]

The company is currently owned by Rakuten, Inc. in Japan. Kobo was sold to Rakuten on 8 November 2011 and the transaction closed 11 January 2012.[5][6][7] Prior to this sale, the majority shareholder was Indigo Books and Music, where Kobo was originally a business division before being spun off.

"Kobo" is an anagram of "book"; the company was so named for its "catchiness" and its "global appeal", as well as the company's involvement in the digital book industry.[2][8]

Devices and services[edit]

Tablets and eReaders[edit]

Main article: Kobo eReader

Kobo produces several eReaders and tablets under the Kobo brand. The current lineup of eReaders consist of the Kobo Touch, the baseline model, the Kobo Glo, an illuminated eReader, the Kobo Aura, the current flagship, and the Kobo Aura HD, the limited edition model with a larger screen. These eReaders compete with the Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble Nook, and Sony Reader in markets around the world.


Applications for reading and purchasing books sold by Kobo are available on several platforms. These include Windows, Windows Phone 8, BlackBerry, iOS, and Android. The iOS Kobo app does not allow for in-app book purchasing, but books purchased from other platforms can be accessed from the app.[9] The desktop clients allow a user to sync their purchases to a Kobo device registered with the same user account.

Store and publishing[edit]

Kobo's bookstore was opened in 2010. It is currently localized for 16 countries and comprises 4 million titles.[10] Content sold on the Kobo Bookstore include eBooks, newspapers, and magazines. Operating under the ideology of an "open platform", the majority of titles are sold in the open ePub format, albeit with DRM.

Several digital book stores have closed down and tranferred their users to Kobo's bookstore. This includes the defunct Borders eBook Store,[11] as well as the Sony Reader Store.[12] Both have provided tools for users to migrate purchases and information to Kobo's offering.

On July 17, 2012, Kobo launched a self-publishing platform called Kobo Writing Life.[10][13] Key features of Kobo Writing Life include "deep analytics", allowing authors to track sales in real time; a "learning center" to guide newcomers in digital publishing; and allowing an author to sell books globally. By July 2014, 250,000 books written by 30,000 authors have been published through this program; these authors originate from 157 countries and have books published in 69 languages.[14]

Sales and market share[edit]

Kobo sells its devices online and through physical retail channels. The company has strategic partnerships with Cheung Kong Holdings,[15] W H Smith,[3][16] Whitcoulls,[17] FNAC,[18] and Livraria Cultura.[19] Kobo also has a program partnering with independent bookstores to sell their devices in exhange for a cut of the profit.[20] According to the EVP of business development, Todd Humphrey, "From day 1, we made it our goal and a priority to be international... if we weren't international, we were not going to get the scale. We were not going to be able to get the pricing that some of our competitors would get to."[21] Kobo claims to serve 18 million readers in over 190 countries with over 17,600 online and physical retail channels.[10][22]

Sony has been in the [e-reader] market in Japan for a long time, but to be perfectly candid, the only company we see as a competitor there is Amazon.”

—Todd Humphrey, Wired.com

This approach led to Wired singling out Kobo as the "only global competitor to Amazon [in the eBook market]".[23] Kobo now claims to have over 20% of the worldwide market, behind only Amazon.com.[24] During the 2011 Christmas period, the company saw a record sevenfold growth in sales.[25][26] On Christmas Day 2012, Kobo claims over 22 million devices were sold.[27] Content revenue increased 44% year over year in 2013.[22]

While hard independent market research numbers do not yet appear to be publically available for other markets, Michael Serbinis of Kobo has stated that their U.S. marketshare is in the “high single to low double digits.”[28] Kobo-owner Rakuten's CEO Hiroshi Mikitani has additionally stated that Kobo is "number one in France; they’re ahead of Amazon in Japan, partially because of us, and Australia and New Zealand as well."[29]

Market share of e-readers in Canada by Ipsos Reid in January 2012
Sellers Percent



  1. ^ Hartley, Matt (8 November 2011). "New chapter for Kobo as firm sold to Japan’s Rakuten". Financial Post. Archived from the original on 8 November 2011. Retrieved 8 November 2011. 
  2. ^ a b Woods, Stuart (15 December 2009). "Shortcovers rechristened Kobo, with no branded e-reader in sight". Quill & Quire. Archived from the original on 2 November 2011. Retrieved 2 November 2011. 
  3. ^ a b "Kobo Announces Partnership with Leading UK Retailer WHSmith to Deliver the Kobo eReading Platform and eReaders to Customers". Market Watch. 13 October 2011. Retrieved 5 June 2011. 
  4. ^ Andriani, Lynn (9 February 2009). "Indigo Unveils Shortcovers, New E-Reading Platform". Publisher's Weekly. Archived from the original on 2 November 2011. Retrieved 2 November 2011. 
  5. ^ "E-reader maker Kobo Inc. says its sales to Japan's Rakuten has closed". Toronto: Canadian Business. 11 January 2012. Archived from the original on 11 January 2012. Retrieved 11 January 2012. 
  6. ^ "Rakuten Completes Acquisition of Kobo". Toronto: Tech Finance. 12 January 2012. Retrieved 13 January 2012. 
  7. ^ Clark, Shaylin (11 January 2012). "E-reading Company Kobo Sold To Rakuten For $315 Million". WebProNews. Archived from the original on 13 January 2012. Retrieved 13 January 2012. 
  8. ^ "World, Meet Kobo!". Kobo Café. 2009-12-15. Retrieved 2014-07-12. 
  9. ^ "eReading apps - Kobo". Kobo. Retrieved 2014-07-12. 
  10. ^ a b c "Kobo Corporate Backgrounder". Kobo. Retrieved 2014-07-11. 
  11. ^ Carnoy, David (20 July 2011). "Kobo trying to untangle itelf from Borders mess". CNET. Archived from the original on 2 November 2011. Retrieved 2 November 2011. 
  12. ^ http://blog.sony.com/2014/02/the-future-of-reader-store/
  13. ^ Kozlowski, Michael (18 July 2012). "Kobo Launches the Writing Life Self-Publishing Platform". Good eReader. Archived from the original on 12 September 2012. Retrieved 12 September 2012. 
  14. ^ Kozlowski, Michael. "Interview with Michael Tamblyn on Kobo Writing Life and International Expansion". Good e-Reader. Retrieved 2014-05-23. 
  15. ^ "Indigo Maintains Majority Ownership As Kobo Closes $50 Million Investment Round". CNW Canada Newswire. 19 April 2011. Archived from the original on 2 November 2011. Retrieved 2 November 2011. 
  16. ^ Jones, Phillip (21 October 2011). "More detail on the W H Smith Kobo deal". Future Book. Archived from the original on 2 November 2011. Retrieved 2 November 2011. 
  17. ^ Biba, Paul (26 April 2010). "Whitcoulls of New Zealand to launch ebooks – Kobo is branching out". TeleRead. Archived from the original on 2 November 2011. Retrieved 2 November 2011. 
  18. ^ "Kobo continues global expansion". Kobo Inc. 11 October 2011. Retrieved 2 November 2011. 
  19. ^ "Kobo partners with Livraria Cultura to sell e-readers in Brazil". PaidContent.org. 15 September 2012. Retrieved 17 May 2013. 
  20. ^ Greenfield, Jeremy (2014-04-05). "Indie Bookstore Sales of Kobo Ebooks Dwarf Google; Still Small". Digital Book World. F+W Media Ltd. Retrieved 2014-07-12. 
  21. ^ Seave, Ava (2013-09-27). "Digital Reading Company Kobo 'On Pace To Be A Billion Dollar Company'". Forbes. Forbes.com LLC. Retrieved 2014-07-12. 
  22. ^ a b "Rakuten Financial Results". Rakuten. Retrieved 2014-07-12. 
  23. ^ Carmody, Tim (2012-01-24). "Why Rakuten’s Kobo Is Amazon’s Only Global Competition". WIRED.com. Condé Nast. Retrieved 2014-07-12. 
  24. ^ Hsiao, Jim (2014-11-14). "Digitimes Research: 4.57 million e-book readers to be shipped globally in 4Q12". DIGITIMES Research. DIGITIMES Inc. Retrieved 2014-07-12. 
  25. ^ Kozlowski, Michael (5 January 2012). "Kobo Experiences Record Growth during the last Six Weeks". Good eReader. Archived from the original on 5 January 2012. Retrieved 5 January 2012. 
  26. ^ Campbell, Lisa (5 January 2012). "Kobo e-book sales increase seven-fold in December". London, United Kingdom: The Bookseller. Archived from the original on 5 January 2012. Retrieved 5 January 2012. 
  27. ^ Gilbert, David (2013-01-16). "Kobo Doubles e-Reader Sales Despite Predicted Decline". International Business Times. IBTimes Co, Ltd. Retrieved 2014-07-12. 
  28. ^ KRASHINSKY AND STRAUSS (6 September 2012). "$315-million Kobo takeover deal a windfall for Indigo". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 20 November 2012. 
  29. ^ Geron (6 September 2012). "Rakuten CEO Hiroshi Mikitani On Amazon, Pinterest And Fixing Japanese Business". Forbes. Retrieved 20 November 2012. 
  30. ^ Barbour, Mary Beth (19 April 2012). "BlackBerry, Apple and Kobo Vie for their Share of the Pie in Canada’s Hot Mobile Device Market". Ipsos Reid. Retrieved 22 May 2012. 

External links[edit]