Would it Be Better if Kobo Were Sold to a US Company?


With the recent announcement that Rakuten is planning to sell OverDrive to KKR, it makes you wonder if Rakuten is going to sell Kobo, their other ebook business, at some point down the line as well.

Rakuten is a Japanese company that purchased Kobo, a Canadian-based company, back in 2012 for 315 million dollars.

Rakuten then purchased the OverDrive ebook lending platform a few years later in 2015.

They paid 95 million dollars more for OverDrive than they paid to acquire Kobo.

It’s unclear at this point how much KKR spent to purchase the OverDrive platform from Rakuten. But what if they had purchased Kobo instead?

What if some other US company with deep pockets were to purchase Kobo?

Over the years Kobo has shown little interest in challenging Amazon’s ebook dominance in the US market. In fact Kobo is still behind Barnes and Noble and Apple in the US when it comes to selling ebooks, so they aren’t even in the running to challenge Amazon.

Partnering with Walmart hasn’t amounted to much either, other than them being an online distributor for Kobo since they don’t stock Kobo devices in stores (except in rare instances, and even then they only stocked the low-end model).

I can’t help but think that Kobo is going to continue to regard the US market as an afterthought unless a wealthy US company were to purchase them from Rakuten, and since most companies are too afraid to challenge Amazon that’s probably never going to happen.

15 Responses to “Would it Be Better if Kobo Were Sold to a US Company?”

  1. As a Canadian I truly hope that Kobo’s never sold to an American company. I’d be concerned that someone would try to change it to be more like a kindle, or worse, would then sell it to Amazon.

    And I love not having to rely on the US for my ereader, especially after years of using kindles. I’d prefer to spend my money in different places when I can.

  2. I agree even though I live in the US I;m not fond of Amazon and many of these US companies put greed over quality.

  3. The American business model is to dominate the market and remove or destroy all competition. Kobo would end up striped for assets as it fails to compete with Amazon.

    Kobo would be better placed remaining Canadian or sold to an EU company where competition rules are stronger allowing better opportunities for it.

  4. Interesting question. There was a time when Kobo e-readers were being sold at Borders bookstores in the US. Today, no one in America has even heard of Kobo. I think being bought out by an American company could bring Kobo much needed exposure in the American market.

    Yes, Amazon dominates the ebook landscape but that’s primarily due to a lack of competition. There are many consumers seeking alternatives to Amazon and Kobo could really make a splash if they promoted their readers the right way. With Barnes and Nobles floundering, Kobo could become second in the US e-reader market and really force Amazon to become more competitive.

  5. I live in the US and bought my first ereader, a kobo, at Borders. Since then I have had a Kobo mini, an original Kobo aura (no bezel) and now have a Libra. I also have a kindle paper white and a pocketbook HD3. I love the kobo readers and book store and would recommend it over all the others. I truly believe the reason they aren’t popular in the US is the total lack of advertising and visibility here. In my small town Walmart I looked many times in the electronics department for a kobo and was told they don’t sell them there. Eventually I discovered one in the book isle. It was an obsolete touch. I don’t see how they can attract any new customers with nowhere to see them. I would have loved to compare the Libra to the Forma before I bought it but there just isn’t anywhere!

  6. Please. No. Don’t sell it to a U S company

  7. Don’t sell it at all!

    • Why not? What has Rakuten done that’s so great? It seems they are content to sit back and make money off the operation without actually doing much of anything. How much has Kobo improved in the past 5 years? A more proactive company could achieve a lot more, especially one not afraid to capitalize on the US market.

      • What are you talking about? They partnered with Walmart, the largest retail chain in the US. It is not Rakuten’s fault that Walmart dropped the ball. I would not call that being “afraid to capitalize in the US market.”

        • It’s been a poor partnership from the get-go when Walmart populated the listings with a bunch of phony reviews. Rakuten should have required more from Walmart than just selling Kobo ereaders online like anyone else can do anyway. Kobo’s in-store and advertising presence in the US is virtually nonexistent. If Walmart would have purchased Kobo outright they’d be doing a heck of a lot more to sell ebooks and ebook readers than they’re doing right now.

        • They shoul partner worth Best Buy. They do a good job of displaying products, and they have more tech-focused customers! Walmart was a Pretty bad choice for a tech product of any type.

      • In my opinion they have done a fairly good job of competing with Amazon. I think their devices are so much better than what Amazon is offering. With being the first to offer the larger device – they certainly lured me away from Amazon. I like their VIP program, the yearly cost of it, the fact that you can use points earned to buy books. The few problems I have had – Kobo customer service worked to resolve the problems successfully and without a lot of hassles. Ordering the devices and covers from Kobo – I had one problem only. Can’t say the same with Amazon. I love the Libra and hate the Oasis. Kobo seems to listen to their customers better than what Amazon does. Granted Kobo needs to work on having a better plan to promote themselves in the US. But I think they have improved a lot since their first device. They send out more updates than what Amazon does. Maybe I am just lucky that my devices have all been good. But I have acquired a fairly large library with them and would hate the fact of them selling out to another company who would eventually phase the reader out.

        • I own both, Kindle and Kobo and note more updates on Kindle. No bias here as there are several things I prefer about Kobo.
          One area Kindle dominates in -sales and trade in incentives on their devices….Kobo totally asleep at the wheel in this area. You can’t sell a lot of content if no one buys your devices.
          Also Kindle is quietly dominating in low budget sci-fi, fiction and romance titles.

  8. I agree that Kobo hasn’t improved a lot the last years. The last years, I bought a couple of Pocketbook ereaders and I think that is a company that improves much more. So I have another interesting question: why don’t sell the other big ereader brands more ereaders in the US? The Pocketbook Inkpad X for instance is a great 10.3 inch ereader whith a great frontlight, and since I bought that ereader I heaven’t used my Kobo Aura One (7.8 inch) ereader anymore. Too bad for Kobo, but for now I prefer Pocketbook because they have more improvements.

  9. Here in EU Kobo has partnered with the most popular and historic book retailers (like Feltrinelli in Italy), which is a big plus for many people who actually still like to visit brick and mortar book stores, and buy some digital books from time to time.
    Amazon is completely centered on their store and has no connection with the territory, if it were for Amazon, all the book stores would have disappeared from hour cities.
    So, for what regards me, the choice on which one is the better, is very simple.