Can E-Books Save the Indie Bookstore?

An early example of the e-book.

  • An early example of the e-book.

For those of us who love small, independent bookstores, the rise of the e-book has been an alarming, complicating phenomenon: because there is truly something wonderful, dizzying even, about being able to carry around thousands of books, and read any one of them on the subway. But this makes us feel like we’re betraying the bookstores we love, where we fortuitously discovered our favorite books, met some of our favorite people ever, and where we sometimes just like to go to clear our thoughts. So it was with great relief that we learned of a new partnership between Canadian e-reader empire Kobo, and small independent bookstores everywhere. Initiated by the American Booksellers Association, this partnership has already been entered into by two of our personal favorite bookstores in the city, WORD and Greenlight. So we thought we’d ask WORD Books owner Christine Onorati what’s going on…


  1. How can you completely omit that most Americans associated Kobo with Borders Books and Music?

    From the New York Times on December 15, 2009:

    Borders Group announced Tuesday that it is developing a new e-book reader and e-book service in partnership with Kobo, a spinoff from Indigo Books & Music, a Canadian publishing company. The Web service is already live at and will be integrated into within the second quarter of 2010.

    The partners said the new e-bookstore will also offers mobile reading applications and will be “device neutral,” allowing readers to download content to the most popular smartphones, including the Apple iPhone, Research in Motion BlackBerry, Palm Pre and Google Android devices.

    The Kobo service plans to offer 1.8 million free books from the Internet Archive and 200,000 other books starting at $9.99 and serve the European Union, Asia and the United States.

    Borders and Kobo offered little information about the upcoming e-reader devices, but here’s what I know: Kobo plans to release more than one version of the e-reader, they will have wireless connectivity and they will be sold in Borders bookstores.

    In an interview, Ron Marshall, chief executive of Borders Group, told me that the company wants to reach “readers who buy a couple of books a year and we hope to offer a product for that market.”

    Kobo didn’t save Borders, did it? What makes this different?

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