I’m not the only one confused by Kobo

Apparently I’m not the only one confused by the schizophrenic way in which Kobo has brought out their new eReaders. It’s good to know that I’m not just being unreasonable in my expectations. I’m sure that there are more dedicated Kobo customers out there who have been anxious to get their hands on the elusive Glo. They can’t be very happy at this point.

Consider this: Kindle customers have their new Paperwhites (at least those who placed pre-orders when the Paperwhite was announced); Sony users have had the PRS-T2 for some time now; and Nook HDs are flying off the shelves at Barnes & Noble. Every other major contender has their devices flooding into the market, and Amazon continues to rack up pre-orders for their out-of-stock Paperwhite. It has been over two months since the Kobo Glo was announced, and, despite this passage of time, Kobo.com has still given no clear indication as to when the Glo will be fully available in the United States. They also forgot to mention that they will no longer be selling their eReaders from their website.

I avidly read Nate Hoffelder’s blog, The Digital Reader, to stay on top of all the latest publishing and eReader news. A couple of nights ago, I commented on a story he wrote about the Glo finally being available at Portland independent bookseller, Powell’s. He was also wondering when the new device would be made available on Kobo.com (as all of their new eReaders have been in the past). I asked Nate if he noticed that Kobo customers can’t even order the Kobo Touch from Kobo.com anymore, and, to my surprise, he was confused too. Nate is the ultimate eReader detective, so if he didn’t know about this change, Kobo has really been keeping it under wraps.

It’s not just their new devices that are missing from Kobo.com, it is all of them.

I had noticed the Kobo Touch removal a few weeks ago, but I figured that they were just running short on stock and had to deactivate the ‘buy button’ for a few days, but then it never came back, without explanation from anyone at Kobo. Even while British and Canadian book chains started to sell the Kobo Glo in their stores, the US was left with only one or two online retailers selling the Mini.

Here is my TDR comment, posted in full:

“. . . but in my defense the idea of Kobo not selling their own products is so crazy that I don’t think it would have occurred to anyone.”

Exactly. Kobo has abruptly, and without notice, decided to go against a major eReader sales paradigm.

For years, if a customer wanted to buy the latest eReader, the first thing they thought to do was check the developer’s website. Amazon is probably responsible for starting this trend, but it just makes sense that customers could buy the device they want directly from the people who make it.

B&N, Amazon, and Sony have all advertised and sold their eReaders right from their .com homepages. Even though B&N’s Nooks are sold in store, I imagine that a huge chunk of their initial sales comes from the pre-orders they get on their website. Apple has an incredibly prominent line of store locations, but you can still buy a new iMac from Apple.com. They haven’t stopped selling online.

This is why this is so baffling: why wouldn’t Kobo at least offer pre-orders from Kobo.com? They could snag those impulse buyers and tech-crazy gadget lovers who hear about a new device and want to order it right away. Instead, the potential customer is directed to a page filled with links.

This is the confusing part: there are seven links listed under “Where to Buy, United States.” All lead to different online retailers that are supposed to be selling Kobo devices. No matter what eReader’s product page you click from (Kobo Glo, Mini, Touch, or Arc), you are given this same list of links. Best Buy and Buy.com’s links offer the best results with Kobo’s devices listed right at the top of the page, and the Mini is in stock. Alternatively, when you click on the Target link, you have to scroll down past rows and rows of skins and cases, all the way to the bottom the page, just to find that only the old Touch and Wifi models are available. The Fry’s link has “Buhbo Animal eReader Covers” filling the whole screen instead of anything Kobo. My favorite is the Sears page which returns a “Sorry, We could not find any matches for ‘Kobo,’ please try your search again” message.

It appears that instead of linking each individual device to its respective retailer’s product page, someone is just typing “Kobo” into a search bar and then posting the results to the “Where to Buy” page. Only Best Buy shows product listings for their new Glo and tablet, and no pre-order options appear to be available from any of these retailers.

How many customers have just given up on this confusing search? As I said yesterday, it’s as if Kobo.com is saying: “Look how cool our new devices are. Now you have to figure out where to buy one and when they will be available. Good luck!”

What do you think?

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