The above is an all too familiar message I receive after trying to enter Kobo Promo codes for discounts on their online eBookstore. I click to go to the checkout page, then I excitedly click the drop-down menu to see if a code box will be revealed (meaning Promo codes are accepted for that title) or if that space will be filled with a “Due to publisher restrictions . . .” message. Most new titles reject the discount code option. I was able to get 45% off of Huxley’s Brave New World and Brave New World Revisited, but Penguin Group-owned Of Mice and Men told me to get lost. None of the “Big Six” publishers permit the use of eBook discount codes, no matter what eBook vendor you choose. When codes are posted online, I often scroll down to see a flurry of comments stating “HEY this didn’t work for me” or “why can’t I use this?” It can be rather frustrating.
With one of my favorite authors, I found a loophole. Since Kobo is an international eBookstore, the European versions of some titles are posted alongside the American ones. Sometimes these alternate versions (usually the same text but with different cover art) are posted by the European imprint of a major house, and that imprint might not be as concerned about discount restrictions as its parent company. In my case, I lucked out. A $14.99, 800-page eBook was listed for $12.00 in the European edition, and its publisher also happened to accept Kobo Promo codes. I used a 70% discount code, and made off with quite a deal. Other European titles were also listed, and they accepted all of my Kobo codes. It was a great day. I spent about $25 and ended up with eight titles that normally would have cost me $100. It seems like the U.S. publishers caught up with this error; all of the European editions were removed from the Kobo store when I checked today. I’m glad I was able to take advantage of this while it was still available.
The publishers’ unwillingness to permit an eBook vendor from offering discount codes, even when they volunteer to absorb the loss by still paying publishers their full share of the sale, is yet another reason why I am rooting for their total defeat in the DoJ case. They have to accept the fact that eBooks are here to stay, and that consumers are not going to tolerate their unfair pricing much longer. I can’t wait until agency pricing is gone, and a nice, rectangular code box will pop up on every eBook’s checkout screen.