Whilst Amazon’s Kindle range is the leading brand for eInk devices, Kobo have a strong hold in the marketplace due to high visibility on the high street. Kobo have an excellent business track record of getting their devices supported by large chain retailers, especially in America, France, the United Kingdom and Canada, where the company actually have the largest market share of any eInk brand.
A new partnership has been announced between the ebook reader giants and the Family Christian Stores chain of retailers, who will be stocking the Kobo Touch and Kobo Mini devices. For every ebook reader sold, Kobo will be donating a portion of the profits to the Christian Non-Profit organisation The James Fund. The principle purpose of the James Fund is to help widows and orphans, based on the message of the Bible verse James 1:27.
Family Christian Stores are the largest Christian focused retail chain in the world, with over 280 stores around the United States, and one of their main product lines has always been books. When users purchase a Kobo from the store, then register it, they will receive three free copies of the bible in ebook format, the New International Bible, the King James Bible and The Voice. The Kobo library also has over 17 thousand Christian interest titles available to buy or download, a sizable number of which are free and in the public domain.
The head of EVP and GM devices at Kobo, Wayne White, made a public statement specifying that the partnership between Kobo and Family Christian Stores aligned well with the company’s vision of making reading more easily accessible to people around the world. He added that Kobo have a reputation for building mutually beneficial and long term relationships with retail business of different sizes. He suggested that their growing retail chain allegiances allowed the company to grow and establish more new partnerships in the future, whilst simultaneously adding a valuable service to the retailers’ customer base.
Kobo is the first major manufacturer of ebook readers to form any alliance with a major religion, and it remains to be seen whether this will affect them in any way when attempting to expand into non-Christian territories. Some have expressed doubts as to the validity of the partnership of Kobo and Christianity, when Kobo is a predominantly Japanese owned company. However, people who shop at Family Christian Stores anyway and are considering purchase of an ebook reader, could certainly do worse than to buy a Kobo on the high street and simultaneously support charity.
Out of the two available models, the Kobo Mini may be the better value, with actually only a one inch difference in diagonal screen size between the two devices. Whether the newer Kobo Glo will also be adopted by Family Christian Stores is not currently clear and there is a good chance that Kobo are using the retailer to offload older models. That is not to say that the units are not good value or high quality products, the pearl eInk screens are excellent; however, it is unlikely that by selling these two models only the retailer will attract a new non Christian audience to buy the products. If they were to sell the latest models at less than recommended retail price and still keep the charitable donations, the scheme might become truly of interest to a wider market.