Kobo Better Than Amazon?

Kobo Inc.

After the rising frustration with Amazon’s ham-handed tactics, as well as their new policy of kicking freebies, I decided that it was time to take a serious look at one of their competitors.

That’s right. Kobo.

While I’ve been registered on the Kobo Writing Life platform since it first opened in June, it wasn’t until November that any of my works were published there (due to technical difficulties with the Writing Life platform.)

Now, to be completely honest, the amount of technical difficulties ocurring with Writing Life when it first began turned me a little off. Extremely long processing dates for published works, difficulties in resolving issues with the online technical staff, and no downloads on even my free ebook offerings, certainly didn’t help my first impressions of the new platform.

On top of all these difficulties, I was flummoxed by Kobo’s ranking system. It certainly doesn’t correlate with my experience of the ranking system in Amazon or in Barnes and Noble. In fact, it confused me so much, I sent a note to the Kobo technical staff, and received this response:

Dashboard Problems
Discussion Thread
Response Via Email (Tara C) 12/05/2012 11:59 AM
Hi Kareen,

Thank you for contacting Kobo Writing Life.

I’m sorry that you’re encountering problems with our rankings. These figures aren’t based on sales alone. They include a number of factors, like the number of books uploaded into that specific genre.

Your dashboard reflects your sales information. If sales are made, we also send you a more detailed monthly sales report.

I hope that this has clarified this issue for you. If you require further clarification, don’t hesitate to contact us.

The Kobo Team


But even after I received the email from the Kobo staff, I still couldn’t figure out how the ranking system worked- which is essential to getting some idea of how the algorithms and listing process work in a publishing platform.

In a tizzy of frustration, I searched the web and discovered an old post by one of my favorite Google+ posters John Ward.  After receiving excellent encouragement from his quick response, I did some research on Kobo and ways to increase sales on that platform, and here was what I found:

Watching the video shed light on a number of things.

First, Mark mentions how the Kobo algorithms work. They’re based on history and listings – in a way similar to Amazon. However, he also stated, “We don’t want to create a ghetto…”

After watching the video, I went back to Kobobooks.com and did a basic, random search process for books, much as any reader who is looking for something to read might, and his statement became even more clear. Here are some of the ways I discovered that Kobo is both similar and different from Amazon:

  1. They use a ranking system, but your book is ranked whether you have had sales or not. This is different from Amazon’s and Barnes and Noble’s system – if you have had no sales, you have no ranking at all.
  2. They have a listing process, but it is not as diverse as Amazon’s or even Barnes and Noble’s. To see what I mean, check out Kobo’s listing vs Amazon’s and Barnes and Noble’s.
  3. Now others might have had a different experience, but my experience was this: Your book might not get visibility even though it’s free. This is very different from my experience with Amazon and Barnes and Noble. When my books are listed as free on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, they are downloaded- they are getting viewed. That was not and still has not been the case with my free offerings on Kobo. While there was a sale made on The Dragon’s Call, I still have not seen any downloads on my free ebook Dreams Both Real and Strange I.

This findings were, to be truthful, a little discouraging, but after doing additional research, I discovered the summary of the video above.

And the interesting thing about that summary was that the most helpful information I received didn’t come from the video itself, it came from the comments below!

Mark came back in the comments and directs readers to http://epubdeals.com.


This is gold.

It is, I believe, the best freebie offering site for epubbooks on Kobo as of right now. It works in an almost identical way to all the sites now offering free kindle read deals. The only difference is that this site, unlike Amazon’s new prohibition on freebie advertisement, is blessed and sanctioned by Mark Lefebvre, Director of Self-Publishing & Author Relations at Kobo.

There was one other site I discovered: http://www.epubbooks.com/ but it doesn’t offer an author submission page as epubdeals does.

So is Kobo better than Amazon?

Not yet.

But it can be – and I believe that it will get there. And if more freebie sites comparable to epubdeals.com appear, I believe that it will grow into a competitor worthy of taking on Amazon.

2 Responses to “Kobo Better Than Amazon?”

  1. I like Kobo too. They’ve ironed out the bugs and their dashboard is fun to use. The biggest thing they’re missing is an author page, which Amazon and Smashwords have down. I don’t think Kobo, Apple or B&N realize how important that is to introduce authors to their readers and make it easy to find your favorite.

  2. K.W. McCabe says:

    I totally agree with you. I also think another important thing they're missing is an affiliate program run directly from their site – this is part of why Amazon has been such a success. They made it easy for people to advertise their on-site products.

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