Five lessons of the Kobo self-pub shutdown debacle

Kobo are still struggling to get self-published ebooks back on sale after their panic self-pub shutdown and here are a few points that could be borne in mind from the whole fiasco. Who knows, it could all kick off again tomorrow when the Mail on Sunday comes out as the MoS isn’t the kind of paper to let things slide.

Lesson 1


I can’t imagine anyone has ebooks solely with Kobo as they have such a small share of the market but their self-publishing shutdown does show the importance of widening your reach. As well as market leader Amazon, there’s also Barnes & Noble’s Nook, Apple’s iBookstore and Google Play. Setting up direct sales from your own website is a good idea and easily done through services such as Gumroad.

Lesson 2

Never use the word quarantine unless you’re referring to a notifiable disease or writing a biohazard thriller

Kobo blundered throughout this fiasco but never so badly as when they put out their one and only communication to Writing Life authors, stating that titles had been “quarantined”. Writers were starting to have high hopes for Kobo, thinking they might be able to mount some sort of a challenge to Amazon’s dominance, but their reputation has taken a battering.

Lesson 3

Pick your partners carefully

This is a good rule for life in general. You need people to help you out in a tight spot rather than those who run off bleating when the going gets even vaguely tough.

Lesson 4

Vested interests now have a new stick to beat self-publishers with

Self-publishing has plenty of detractors who must be grateful for the chance to make a mountain out of a molehill. The Mail on Sunday article last week pointed to 64 extreme porn titles available on the WH Smith website, which led to tens of thousands of completely non-offending ebooks being taken off sale for nearly a week. If ebook retailers set out guidelines for content then they need to police those guidelines effectively but they also need to remember there is the principle of free speech and expression at stake.

Lesson 5

Some companies kept their heads

Amazon come in for a lot of criticism in the general run of things but they didn’t make any panic moves amid the media frenzy, just some quiet weeding out of various titles, and the same can be said for Barnes & Noble with Nook ebooks. I like Nook, the tablets and the website look classy and they have slick service, I just hope they can somehow get over their problems. Distributor Draft2Digital also did well, giving good, prompt information to their authors and dealing with Kobo to get titles back on sale.