By Story Star correspondent Jane Haynes
After months of listening to publishers refer to the digitalisation of the publishing industry as a ‘revolution’, a recently released statistic appears not only to justify, but also to solidify their use of such terminology. As it was revealed this week that now one third of Britons are in ownership of an ereader or electronic tablet, the reach of the digital arm of the book industry is proving as broad and as sweeping as ever. As with any enduring innovation or reform which maintains such a firm grasp on any industry, the natural course of action is to embrace the change, harness its early success and mould it naturally as an inherent facet of the industry.
If recent reports are anything to go by, this is exactly the thinking behind book retailer W H Smith’s latest plans to reverse poor sales and diversify its position in the book market. Following the revelation that the company’s book sales have plummeted by 8% over the six months to the end of February, the company refused to dwell on the negative ramifications of the statistic, instead focusing on their flourishing relationship with Kobo Inc. Speaking of the partnership relationship which they have secured with the Canadian-based ereader company, W H Smith issued a statement reading: “We continue to develop our presence in the e-books market through our partnership with Kobo and throughout the period have successfully built awareness of the brand and the product offer.”
Initially joining the ereader market with the Kobo last year, W H Smith has decided to build upon the ever-growing popularity of the eBook and the Kobo itself by opening Kobo trial stores within their UK chain. These mini stores will aim to increase interest in and awareness of the Kobo ereaders, which will be displayed along with their accompanying accessories in designated areas in the store. Meanwhile, specially trained staff will be on hand to provide information about the devices to customers, as well as overseeing trial sessions with the devices and answering all Kobo-related queries.
While the Kobo has often been viewed as the ereader underdog in comparison to its counterparts, the mighty Amazon Kindle and Apple iPad, the Kobo’s popularity has taken a sharp turn in recent months. While the Canadian-based company Kobo Inc. reported a sevenfold increase in sales over the 2011 Christmas period, it has recently revealed that its customer traffic multiplied no less than ten times in the same period, in comparison to the previous quarter’s statistics. Indeed, a recent report by Ipsos Reid revealed that in its native Canada, the Kobo tops the ereader market ahead of the Kindle and the iPad with 36% of the market share.
No doubt this latest move by W H Smith will do much to further boost sales of the Kobo, as well as making up for its disappointing physical book figures. One added advantage which will indisputably encourage the further success of the Kobo in its partnership with W H Smith are the recent price changes which have been instated by Kobo Inc. The original model, the Kobo Wireless will now be available to purchase at a competitive £59.99, while the latest in the range, the Kobo Vox has been reduced down to £149.99.