Hat tip to The Digital Reader for kicking off this story. Yesterday Nate Hoffelder ran an item speculating that Kobo Plus, the ebook and audiobook subscription service run by Canada-based Kobo, might be launching soon in the USA and Canada.
TNPS has been aware for some while that Kobo Plus planned to expand its operation into France and the French-speaking half of Belgium (Kobo Plus is already successfully operating in the Dutch half of Belgium and in the Netherlands).
We’ve since confirmed there is a launch planned in Canada soon, but as yet the suggestion of a US launch remains speculative. Hopefully Kobo will be able to confirm or deny that over the next day or so.
While Kobo will be going head to head with Kindle Unlimited in Canada, it obviously will be no threat to Amazon, but there is plenty of scope for interesting scenarios.
For example, Kobo Plus may well be able to pull in mainstream publisher titles that are not in KU, as well as, ironically, indie titles that are in the Kindle retail store but not in KU (Amazon demands indies go exclusive with Amazon through KDP Select in order to have titles in Kindle Unlimited).
In that respect it will be competing more with Scribd than Amazon.
Kobo Plus launched in the Netherlands in 2017 as part of the Kobo-operated Bol.com store, and quickly gained respect among publishers and consumers and notoriety among bookstores, especially when it began releasing exclusive titles from bestselling authors.
Although the target audience was Dutch readers, meaning reach into neighbouring Belgium, where part of the country speaks Dutch and part French) Dutch-language titles have long been outnumbered by English-language titles, and these will no doubt form part of the canada kobo Plus offering.
In addition, plans have long been afoot to launch Kobo Plus in France and to capture the French-speaking audience in Belgium, and any publishers on board for that may also relish reach in French-speaking Canada.
Amazon has been in the Netherlands for some years (The Kindle NL store was Amazon’s last Kindle store launch) with a half-hearted effort at selling ebooks, but has never been that excited at competing with Bol.
However, in March of this year Amazon finally expanded its general retail operation into the country. It remains to be seen if that has had any impact on digital sales in the Kindle NL store.
Amazon has never tried to compete in the Netherlands with Kindle Unlimited, but for Canada Kobo may need to rethink its pricing strategy.
In the Netherlands Kobo Plus costs consumers 12.99 euros per month, which equates to US $14 / CAD $19.80.