Kobo has launched its ‘Originals’ programme in France, the Netherlands and Canada, offering readers exclusive original e-book and audiobook content.
The Canada-based company is working with industry partners to find the content. The first original content it is offering is an audiobook, Scotiabank Giller Prize Finalist Zoe Whittall’s The Best Kind of People, narrated by Sonja Field, now available exclusively in Canada through Kobo Originals. Sarah Polley, the writer-director who recently adapted Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace for Netflix, has optioned the film rights to the novel and is slated to write and direct the film herself.
“Everything we do is for the reader, and our best customers have told us exclusive content is something they want to see from us,” said Pieter Swinkels, executive v.p., publisher relationships and content at Rakuten Kobo. "We are quickly ramping up the program, and are working in close collaboration with agents and publishers to create a robust exclusive catalogue to serve book lovers here in Canada and abroad.”
Swinkels promised “a lot more to come, with more exclusive content launching throughout the year”.
Kobo entered the audiobook market in September, with a subscription service claiming to offer “the best value on a subscription plan in the category”.
The appetite for audio books has increased over the last three years. Sales of digital audiobooks from publishers soared by 28% to £16m in 2016, though this number underestimates the market size. In the US, sales have continued into the first quarter of 2017, with American publishers seeing a 28.8% rise in audiobook downloads to $74.7m in the first quarter.
Ahead of the Frankfurt Book Fair in October, The Bookseller revealed that the fight for audiobook rights fiercer than ever, partly spurred by the promotional budgets and reach of Audible.
Meanwhile sales of e-books from traditional publishers are falling, down 5.3% to $281m in the first quarter in the US.