Aboard the Kobo Rocketship!

Posted by Michael Serbinis August  18, 2010

I was recently sharing some of our growth stats with a key partner while he was driving to a meeting. He nearly drove off the road. It’s only been 8 months and 3 days since we launched Kobo last December, and we have experienced tremendous changes in the market and unbelievable growth for any startup. Here are some highlights:

#1 WORLD DOMINATION, THE BEGINNING…

We have now launched 4 of the largest bookseller chains worldwide – Borders (US), Indigo (CA), Borders (AU), Angus & Robertsons (AU) and Whitcoull’s (NZ). They each have an integrated web experience, mobile applications for iPad, iPhone, Blackberry, Android and Desktop. They also sell our Kobo eReader in stores and online.

Meanwhile, our direct business at Kobobooks.com is rocking and we’ve delivered ebooks into 200 countries from Azerbaijan to Vanuatu – we’re making books available in more places to more people than ever before.

#2 CONTENT IS KING

We now have 2.2 million eBooks, and local content in Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand in addition to the US. We have 95% of New York Times bestselling titles available in digital format (even kids books!) and 90% of Globe & Mail bestsellers, with more arriving every day. We are actively acquiring content around the world, and this goes beyond black & white text, beyond plain ole’ ebooks. As we announce new distribution channels, we will give a deeper update here.

#3 KOBO EREADER STARTED A TREND

We’re amazed at how many customers we’ve turned on to our Kobo eReader in the last 100 days. It’s affordable, stylish, easy to use positioning definitely struck a chord with customers and started a trend for lower priced eReaders (you’re welcome!). For competitive reasons, we can’t tell you just how many are out there, but it is fact that many of our global retail distributors have been out of stock too often. We thought they would be popular – but we didn’t think they’d be that popular. It’s the best bad problem a device-maker can have. We like to think that we convinced the world that yes, in fact ereaders are for everyone. Not just tech people. Not just people with lots of money to spend.

Just last week we announced that Fairmont Hotels will start providing Kobo eReaders to guests in select hotels. We knew we were stylish, but we didn’t know we’d be in The Plaza… nice!

#4 THE FIRST ON ANDROID

We launched a new Android app last month that we are hugely excited about – we think Android has a big future. We started the “any device” mantra, and guess what? The industry has caught on. We have recently launched updates our popular apps for iPhone, iPad and Blackberry. Our desktop app for Mac/Windows ships with our eReader but we will make that available to everyone shortly.

#5 OVER 1 MILLION SERVED (LAST MONTH)

Across web, mobile, devices, direct, channel…we served 1 million people last month.

There are more of you, buying at a higher frequency, staying longer, and building their libraries. We now have customers with ~400 books in their libraries! Prices have continued to come down, despite concerns many had with agency pricing. Our average price is now $8USD. Even those who buy eBooks download a lot of free eBooks, loving our 1.8MM++ FREE titles!

#6 OUR GROWTH BEATS THE MARKET

You can check the IDPF growth numbers here. We’re beating them, probably more than anyone, on a % growth basis. Now for our version of directional, relative, growth stats: In Q1, we sold over 10X the ebooks as we did in Q4 (when we were still in pilot-mode). In Q2, we nearly tripled Q1. Comparing that to the first half of 2009, when we launched in pilot-mode, that’s more than 130X growth. In mid Q2, we started selling Kobo eReaders too and that drove total sales more than 10 times in Q2.

#7 THE KOBO COMMUNITY IS AWESOME

I love our Kobo customers and can only stand back and marvel at all the passion pouring from our community. Our “Where are You Reading Campaign” drove some awesome photos of people reading eBooks….and recently I saw a picture of two Kobo customers’ wedding and the groom is reading the wedding wows on his Kobo eReader!

We are rocking. We’re a David among many Goliaths, building a global business, developing the market for eReading. We’re not a billion-dollar company (yet), but this is all we do and we are scrappy. We have no other business to lose any sleep over or steal our focus. We are in this both because we want to win and because we think reading can be better. This is the first time in 500 years that the book has had a major change. This is bigger than all of us and we have immense respect for the impact that these changes will have on our traditions, our culture, and the way we think about the written word.

Thank you for your continued support, enthusiasm and patience in our quest to build a global eReading juggernaut. As we approach fall, and growing competition, Annabel Lyon’s “Golden Mean” (which I loved) reminds me of my roots, and Alexander’s wars.

Watch out Darius, here we come.

 

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