Secret to beating Amazon – Don't sell fridges

Kobo’s CEO Michael Serbinis is telling the world+dog that the way to beat Amazon is to focus on books rather than trying to sell other gear like fridges.

Serbinis told the International Business Times that he is absolutely confident that after only a year and a half in operation his company is well on the way to giving Amazon a good kicking.

Kobo partnered with WHSmith and the Booksellers Association in the UK in order “to reach the most passionate readers” and has launched its Aura HD ereader in response to feedback it received from tens of thousands of “voracious readers”.

Serbinis said that devices will change over time but what was more important was developing a relationship with the customer and building an eco-system for them, which delivers the content they want.

However, Serbinis is still “talking big” particularly when Amazon has exactly the sort of “ecosystem” with its readers that Kobo is on about.

Where he differs with Amazon is that he cares if stores live or die.

Kobo only has 100 shop-in-shop connections within WH Smith stores and has just announced plans for 100 more opening by the end of this year.

It is vital to Serbinis’ plans that the high-street stores remain in place and be successful. Bookshops already have relationships with their customers and it is them that endear Kobo to publishers.

As a result the first publisher deal the company cut took six months, but they now happen several times an hour, he said.

Kobo has been doing well. In December 2012 Kobo tripled its sales year-on-year, growth no other ebook platform can match. It has 3.4 million titles available globally, growing two to three percent every week. It has launched a self-publishing programme called Writing Life, which already has “tens of thousands” of authors and over 100,000 books published in just nine months.

All this is not bad for an outfit which launched in the UK in October 2011 with a market share of zero. It now holds 10 percent of the ebook market in the UK.

But Serbinis thinks that the reason he can take on and beat Amazon is because he does not sell washing machines or radios and is not interested in trying to peddle data services.

As a result it is difficult for anyone in Amazon to get anything done because the company lacks focus, he said.