Kobo has 'no interest in fighting publishers'

Kobo has 'no interest in fighting publishers'

Kobo has said it has “no interest in fighting publishers”, after signing its first publishing deal with journalist Kevin Donovan for a book about Canadian radio presenter Jian Gomeshi, who is currently awaiting trial for sexual assault.

The Canadian e-book retailer has signed world English language rights in print and digital to Jian Ghomeshi – Secret Life via Donovan’s agents Jesse Finkelstein and Samantha Haywood of Transatlantic Agency – in the first deal of its kind for the company. 

While Kobo is publishing the title in digital on its platform, it is partnering with Canadian independent publisher ECW Press on a print edition of the book. The company also has press partners in the US and had “some preliminary discussions with publishers in the UK.”

Speaking about cutting its first professional publishing deal, Pieter Swinkels, Kobo vice president of publisher relations, told The Bookseller that the company saw itself as “enabler of publishing houses" and added “we support them, we have no interest in fighting them.” However, he also said that “publishing is a term that needs to be redefined” and while the company wasn’t looking to become a traditional publisher, it was hoping to “evolve the model” going forward.

He said: “Kobo is always looking to how we can improve, evolve and develop our platform for our readers. As we see how projects develop and publishing and bookselling models evolve, we are looking for our place to give our customers the support and experience. What we are looking for is not to become an traditional publisher, we are looking to evolve the model.”

He added: “When the agent came around with this particular book – it is a topical issue, traditional publishers need a longer lead time, so it is ideal for a digital original. The author was keen to explore and we clicked. We realised it’s too important a story to use as an experimental digital one only. It is fantastic material, an award winning journalist and it is a big case inside Canada.” 

Swinkles said the partnership “pushed the (publishing) model further.” 

In the book, Donovan will reveal details about Ghomeshi’s past and the events that lead to him being fired from his radio show. He has also interviewed a number of women and former colleagues from Ghomeshi’s past. Swinkels said Donovan’s book is “not just the outrageous true crime story he exposed - it’s a thought-provoking story that forces us to look again at social, cultural and gender roles”.

Last year, The Bookseller reported that Kobo’s e-book rival Amazon was targeting the UK market in a bid to become “the world’s most author-centric publishing house,” recruiting UK publishing staff, including a publisher and acquisitions editor.

Former Waterstones m.d Dominic Myers was then appointed as its head of Amazon Publishing in Europe last October.