Indie Corner: Kobo Issues, Kobogate, and Site Updates


Vision 74


Indie Corner:

Kobo Issues, Kobogate, and Site Updates


J.A. Marlow


Copyright © 2014, J.A.Marlow, All Rights Reserved


At first, I intended to do a "State of the Indie-verse" post for Indie Corner, following changes and new programs across several retailers. However, as I was working on the Kobo section, I realized just how much has recently transpired with the company. So, for this issue of Vision we will be looking over the issues Kobo has been having on their website, what to watch out for, and what to do if you find yourself affected.

First the big problem that captured the attention of even big news media: A tabloid in the UK reported bookseller WH Smith was selling "filth" alongside books aimed at children. WH Smith reacted by shutting down their entire website while updating their software, with only a static notice citing a “number of unacceptable titles” (Link) as the reason. Remember that UK-based WH Smith must comply with the UK "Obscene Publications Act" law. Why WH Smith didn't program in filters on their website for this very issue is something some are questioning (Link). However. . . .

In what is now being called "Kobogate," Kobo reacted by pulling all Indie published books from the UK catalog, both on their website as well as to any UK-based retailers. Some report they were pulled from world-wide distribution, with their ebooks remaining listed only on the Canadian and US sites. None of the books that would qualify for this complaint(Link) published by big publishers were pulled, though, and it's this hypocrisy that has a lot of people angry.

Personally, I understand the public reaction and believe Kobo did not act as it could have. Amazon did a quiet pull themselves, but used algorithms to help them do it. They focused their attention. Kobo reacted with a 'full smash' and pulled all Indie books, even books that were not an issue.

On October 25th, Kobo sent out an email to all publishers that all books not in need of further review were restored to the world-wide catalog. A "few titles that remain unavailable" were held back for closer scrutiny.

Turns out it wasn't just a "few." A number of ebooks, including entire catalogs from some smaller publishers in genres and subject matter that had nothing to do with the issue that caused the reaction in the first place, remained missing.

Advice: Use friends from around the world or proxies to check the status of your ebook in other countries. Especially the Kobo site and WH Smith. You may find your ebooks missing. If your ebooks are not appearing, contact Kobo Customer Service at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Now onto the other issue.

Kobo updated their website somewhere around late September to October. Several things seemed to have happened. Ebooks lost their rankings, front-end description formatting comes and goes, Goodreads reviews were dropped, and a bunch of listings lost their categories. Yes, they are obviously going through growing pains again.

The ebook rankings are the good news. They soon returned after the first site update and have remained.

The front-end description synopsis formatting comes and goes, and as of late December seem to be gone again. This includes bolding, underlines, lists, and extra spacing between paragraphs to make reading synopsis easier on the eyes.

When the categories returned, a lot of those books were found to be listed in "Religious fiction" (One erotica writer found her books listed under "travel" and "Children's fiction."). For many, this reduced or incorrect visibility has resulted in reduced sales, and for some sales came to a complete halt.

In December Kobo updated again, both the front store and the publisher side of their website. I found a few books, that I had corrected after the same issue on the previous update, lost one or more categories. At least this time they didn't lose all categories.

As for the Goodreads reviews loss, some have reported an increase in sales, some no change at all, and others a drop. This seems to vary according to publisher and author. As of this time, there is no review ability on the Kobo site, not even a Kobo-based one.

Advice: There isn't much that can be done about the synopsis formatting. Kobo needs to fix it site-wide from their side. The same for a review mechanism.

For those of you publishing directly with Kobo, check the categories of all your ebooks. You may need to choose them again and hope they soon update in the ebook store. If not, you will need to email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for help.

For those published through third parties such as Smashwords and Draft2Digital, check your categories. You may need to request your distributor to resend your ebook's metadata to correct the issue.

To end this article on a good note, I do want to emphasize that Kobo is growing its ebook base around the world. They are also improving their website, slowly but surely. In the last six months the search engine has improved, with author names and titles now coming up properly.

They are not big in the US, but they are elsewhere. With their partnerships with other book/ebook retailers, they continue to expand their reach. With other retailers having their own issues, it is still a good idea to keep your income streams diversified.

As with any business relationship, it is important to stay up-to-date and informed on your partners and correct issues as they occur. Doing so in a polite and businesslike fashion will take you far.