The picture above is of an advert I spotted on the Victoria Line this morning, the one below is an ad seen on a train leaving Waterloo this afternoon.
Both are for the Kobo ebook reader and reinforce my suspicions that it’s Kobo who gains the most from the recently announced tie-up with high street book retailer WHSmith.
What strikes me about both ads is that WHSmith are named just once while Kobo get three and four mentions depending on the ad.
Of those Kobo mentions, it’s the presence of their URL which is most comment worthy.
If WHSmith are the UK retailer for the Kobo, why doesn’t the advert contain their URL?
Nothing on the advert explicitly tells me I can buy the reader from the Smith’s website and visiting kobo.com I had to click three times before I even got to a page with a link to whsmith.co.uk where I could buy reader.
Other making money on the sale of the physical reader, is WHS really still an ebook player?
Last month it told customers that while they can continue to search and browse for eBooks at WHSmith.co.uk “when you have found an eBook you will click through to Kobo’s website to complete your purchase.”
The resulting page states: “Kobo is WHSmith’s new partner to buy, read and store eBooks” but as a customer it feels more like WHS is merely introducing me to Kobo in return, I presume, for a commission on any resulting sales.
This is reinforced by the heading in the WHS ‘Quick Help’ page: “WHSmith recommend Kobo eBooks”
The help site goes on to say:
“We’ve been searching for the perfect partner to help you browse, buy, read and store eBooks. We found Kobo, we love it – we know you will too!
“Kobo brings you more than 2.2 million titles in its online store, including more than 1 million free eBooks.
“You can buy and read your favourite eBooks on just about any device you choose including smartphones, tablets and computers. Simply download Kobo’s Free apps.
“5 million customers are already enjoying Kobo eBooks – we recommend you try them too.”
What’s not clear is this – if I sign up to Kobo after visiting the URL shown on the co-branded Tube ad, does WHS still get any money or does it only benefit from sales made via its website and/or the physical readers?
Or is there a completely different funding model at play?
Update: Tonight’s news that Kobo is being bought by Rakuten means WHSmith’s ebook service is now largely dependent on the owners of Play.com, one of its biggest online rivals.