Axe to Grind: Kobo’s Website

Posted October 14, 2012 by Carmel in / 27 Comments

Axe to Grind hosted by Rabid Reads

I have been a loyal Kobo user since I purchased my first eReader from them back in 2010. At the time, there weren’t very many options available for Canadians looking to buy eBooks so I decided to give them a try. I read a lot of novels on my Vox but I’m sad to say that the vast majority of them are not acquired through their store. I’ve only bought a handful of novels from them for a number of reasons:

1. Their eBooks are overpriced.

More often than not it’s way cheaper for me to purchase a physical copy of a book than it is to buy an electronic version from them. I’m positively baffled by this. How can a novel with a cover, 300+ pages and shipping charges be cheaper than a computer file? Granted, I do have to add a few cents to Amazon’s listed prices because of the US to Canadian conversion but the increase is minimal. Kobo has been getting better as of late but they still have a long way to go before they succeed in meriting my hard earned money. A word of advice, don’t buy YA novels from them because they are ridiculously overpriced. I polled a mix of paranormal titles for argument’s sake and here are my findings:

Kindle Price
Kobo Price
Rivals and Retribution by Shannon Delany
Shadow Bound by Rachel Vincent
Midnight Reckoning by Kendra Leigh Castle
Seduced by Blood by Laurie London
The Taken by Vicki Pettersson
Moonglow by Kristen Callihan
Taken by Storm Jennifer Lynn Barnes
The Darkest Seduction by Gena Showalter
Thirteen by Kelley Armstrong
Blue-Blooded Vamp by Jaye Wells
***Please note that these prices are from October 10th, 2012 and may have changed in the interim.

By my calculations, I would have saved $4.41 by purchasing these 10 books from Amazon instead of Kobo. It might not seem like much at first glance but when you buy as many novels as I do, it adds up! Also, I was being generous with my sample, I could have just picked YA titles and really demonstrated how much they gouge customers.

2. New releases aren’t available on the pub. date.

Ok, so not everyone rushes out to buy a book the moment it’s available but if you want to you should at least have that option. Please refer to reason #3 while reading this because there’s a strong possibility that some of these novels may be available but I just couldn’t find them! Below is a random selection of books that were released or are coming out in October. Note how many titles still are not available on Kobo’s website.

Publication Date
Death’s Rival by Faith Hunter
Mortal Ties by Eileen Wilks
Poison Princess by Kresley Cole
Phantom Shadows by Dianne Duvall
Angel’s Ink by Jocelynn Drake
Finale by Becca Fitzpatrick
Iced by Karen Marie Moning
Black Lament by Christina Henry
Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet by Darynda Jones
The Shattered Dark by Sandy Williams
***Please note that this is at of October 10th, 2012 and some of these titles may now be available.

1 out of 10 isn’t bad, right? Yeeeaahh… I honestly tried to help Kobo save face here by looking up way more than just these 10 books and was unable to find a second October release on their website. How sad is that? It’s also worth mentioning that I’m not the only one who finds this incredibly frustrating. Authors trying to sells books do too:

Amber Lynn Natusch Facebook Quote

3. Their webite search engine is atrocious.

Words can’t express how much I hate looking for books on their site. As a test for this post, I typed “Keeping Secret Sierra Dean” into their search engine and received 17,182 hits. This eBook shouldn’t be terribly hard to find in my opinion. It was released in July 2012 after all and is currently only available electronically. It’s not like I’m searching for some cryptic, impossible-to-get title. Typically search engines list results by relevancy i.e. the closest match to my keywords should be first, right? WRONG. None of the titles nor authors listed in the first page results match any of my search criteria. Wanting to further emphasize how crappy their search engine is; I decided to skim through the results until I came upon the actual book I was looking for. Guess which page I found the actual novel on. Go on, guess! I dare you.

Kobo Search Results

Yes, you read that correctly. I had to scroll through 51 pages of results before arriving on entry number #510 which matched the book I was actually looking for. The only workaround that I have found is typing the novel info into Google and adding Kobo to the query. However, I still find it sad that I have to rely on another search engine in order to find books on Kobo’s own website.

4. Their “sales” suck.

I constantly get promotional e-mails from them encouraging me to take advantage of their special offers. I’m sorry but 20% off an already overpriced title does not even come close to competing with Kindle’s $0.99 deals. Every couple of months I get a “we miss you so here’s XX% off voucher” and I never use them because I can get a physical copy of the same novel from The Book Depository for way less.

In short, I hate Kobo’s website. Their prices aren’t competitive with similar online book vendors, it can sometimes take months for new titles to appear on their site and their search engine sucks. I would prefer to give my business to a Canadian merchant but unfortunately when this is one of my only options I can’t help but decide to spend my money elsewhere. It’s just not worth the hassle or the headache.

What do you think of Kobo’s website?

About the Blogger
I review Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance books with a focus all things werewolf. Based out of Ottawa, Canada

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Owner, designer and main blogger behind Rabid Reads. Avid book reader, snowboard bunny, video gamer and Supernatural fan. I love all things paranormal, werewolves especially. Oh, and I’m Canadian, eh!

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27 responses to “Axe to Grind: Kobo’s Website

  1. Yeah, I’m not a fan of it either. As for their search engine, I learned a while back to find books by author, not name. I know Smashwords is having a problem with them not putting up the books they send. I just sent out a notice to Smashwords stating it’s not up. They are aware of the problem and state that because Kobo limits the amount of data they do in a day, this is the cause of the backlog.

    Not a very good way to run a business, especially when they want to be a legitimate competition with Amazon.

  2. I agree, their website is terrible! I’ve found the same problems you have and it’s so frustrating. I still buy from them since I don’t like Kindle’s DRM stuff and I can get Aeroplan points (via the Aeroplan estore) but if it wasn’t for that, I’d buy all of my e-books directly from the publisher. Sometimes it’s a lot cheaper, particularly if you’re looking for Carina Press titles.

    I’ve also had problems with the files I’ve downloaded from them. I bought a Jon F. Merz title, for example, and instead of the .acsm file I usually get, I get a bunch of files and folders and don’t have a way to put it on my e-reader or my iPad. I think they’re basically the dissected Smashwords files but I can’t figure out how to get it onto my reader, even though it’s fine when I buy directly from Smashwords. I don’t know if it’s because i have a Mac but this is really my biggest problem because their customer support is rubbish. They refunded my money after a few emails and said they had fixed the issue but then I went and bought it again and it was the exact same problem!! And I really wanted that book! It’s also happened with some of the Moira Rogers e-books they have up right now as freebies. πŸ™

    As a side note, I really enjoy this new feature on your blog, Carmel! πŸ˜€ Sorry for the rant.

  3. The Kobo website is horrible. Their search function returns so many strange results, never the one you are looking for. With regards to pricing, I can’t understand why their prices are so high.

    I did find plenty of examples on Amazon where the paperbacks were cheaper than the Kindle file. A few of them applied to Canada and not the US, as the US price was normal.

    Check out the pricing of this book on Amazon –

    (US readers will not see the $21.85 kindle price)

    then check it out on Kobo – ($12.99)

    Strange, huh?

  4. I have tremendous difficulty finding anything on their site and they do not seem to have the quantity of cheaper or free books that Amazon does, but I love their platform over Kindle, so I will put up with it.

  5. @jenn I’ve had the same problem with their files too. It’s annoying when you d/l a book from Kobo but can’t read it on their eReader. WTH!?

  6. @ahz1 I noticed that too when I was doing my research for this post that oftentimes their paperbacks are cheaper than their Kindle editions. It doesn’t make much sense to me. Kobo’s prices are cheaper on most Canadian titles though…

  7. @jenn Ooh, and thanks for the feedback on my new feature! I’m a complainer so I figured that I’d turn my swearing into constructive criticism. πŸ˜‰

  8. I’m glad I’m not alone! My main problem is buying DRM free books that say they are DRM free but Kobo won’t let me download them! I bought Saving Valor from Amber Kell (definitely DRM free) and I can read it on the Kobo app on my iPad, but I cannot download it from the site to my computer. How wrong is that? I haven’t purchased from them since.

  9. @jenn
    I have had this problem too with non-DRM Kobo files. What happens is that the file downloads as a zip instead of an epub. There may be a better way to do this, but I usually just use Calibre to convert the zip to epub.

  10. First of all, funky new look. Like it!
    I don’t necessarily have a problem with Kobo’s site because I still prefer print books. I don’t like how Kobo won’t show certain titles until RELEASE DAY. It makes me nervous when I can’t see a certain novella I want to buy and read on release day on their site before release. It’s always there the morning of but still, it makes me worry for nothing. And I don’t like doing that!
    My beef is with their email customer service. When I bought my first Kobo, it didn’t work well. I called them and they sent me a new one right away. That was great. Lately I’ve been having issues with my pdf files where the last character from the entire page that I first opened my Kobo on stays with me as I turn the page. One letter isn’t bad, I can guess the last words, but sometimes it’s more and I have to turn my Kobo on and off EACH PAGE to reset it. I emailed them with my issue. I know it’s tricky to visualize so I even emailed a picture of my Kobo showing my problem. What do I get back. Instruction on how to read my pdf file. How to make it bigger and how to change the layout from portrait. What. The. Hell. I was really frustrated. I emailed back with something like “Your reply has nothing to do with my query. Did you even read my email? I even sent you a photo! Did you even look at it?!” As you can see, I was not happy. And it takes a lot for me to get like that with someone other than Jason πŸ˜‰ Then they don’t email back for a week. Finally I get “a while back we emailed you and since we haven’t heard back we’re assuming things are good”. Um…excuse me! So I emailed again. AND GOT THE SAME REPLY BACK! The f-ing lesson on how to read pdf! Finally I called them and they took the time to look into things and told me I am sh*t out of luck. But at least they tried.
    Wow…longest comment ever lol And all that to say I feel your Kobo pain even though it’s not the same as mine. πŸ˜‰

  11. @Julie Thanks. πŸ™‚ Oh wow, that’s horrible! I hate bad customer service experiences. What dummies! But at least you’re now the new record holder for the longest comment ever on my blog. :p

  12. I never really understood what kobo was, I just got my first ereader less than a year ago.

    It sounds awful! How do you they plan on having a loyal customership if they don’t release books. O.o Nor do they try to compete with other sites.

    Amber Elise @ Du Livre

  13. @Amber Elise
    In Canada, it was easier to get a Kobo. Kobo also uses epub files which are more readily available and can be borrowed from the library. You are not required to buy books from Kobo – there are a lot of other booksellers that sell epub files. I just find it frustrating that the paperback is often cheaper than the ebook.

  14. Sometimes, being in Europe, Kobo is the only option that I have to buy ebooks due to that horrid geographic restrictions stuff, although that’s become less and less of a problem in the last year or so. I usually only use it when I don’t have another choice.

    One thing that I really don’t like about it is that I can’t put a whole lot of stuff in my ‘cart’ and check it out at once. I have to buy each one individually….unless I’m missing something which is highly possible!