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All stories relating to shortcovers

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Shortcovers rechristened Kobo, with no branded e-reader in sight

It’s official: Shortcovers, the Indigo-owned e-book service launched less than a year ago, has a new name. At midnight last night, the company was rechristened Kobo (an anagram of “book”), and along with a redesigned website and mobile app, introduced several new features. However, no mention was made of a branded e-reading device, despite recent speculation.

What does the name change mean? Presumably, if the Shortcovers brand is starting from scratch all over again, we can expect more than simply a new “look and feel.” But the initial changes, outlined in a blog post by Kobo CEO Mike Serbinis, seem fairly minor. They include the ability to browse by category (fiction, romance, sci-fi & fantasy, etc.), a regularly updated bestsellers list, and recommended reading lists.

Serbinis says to also expect new apps, new “supported devices,” and expanded international offerings, including the ability for consumers around the world to make purchases in their local currency.

To experience the new Shortcovers, go to kobobooks.com.

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What is Kobo?

Remember that rumour from this past summer that Indigo was planning to unveil a dedicated e-reading device? Well, some intrigue at the Canadian Intellectual Property Office is reviving such speculation.

Yesterday, blogger Mark Bertils noted that the Shortcovers app had gone AWOL in the Apple store. And a little digging from the Association of Canadian Publisher’s Nic Boshart has unearthed that Indigo-owned Shortcovers has taken out a trademark on the name Kobo, described as a portable e-reading device “for receiving, downloading, displaying, providing access to and reading text, images and sound and other digital content through wireless Internet access.”

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Indigo deals with the digital revolution

Information wants to be free, or so the popular bromide has it. Heather Reisman, CEO and “chief booklover” of Indigo Books & Music, has another formula: “All content wants to be digital.” According to an article in Saturday’s Globe and Mail, the head of Canada’s largest book retailer thinks that the recent launch of the company’s digital bookselling platform Shortcovers will be insufficient to forestall what she projects (somewhat startlingly) as a 15% drop in book sales over the next five years due to the advent of a digital marketplace.

If traditional bricks-and-mortar bookstores are in peril due to the groundswell in digital publishing, currently the fastest-expanding segment of the market, Reisman’s response may seem counterintuitive. According to the Globe article, she plans to confront the digital revolution by enticing more parents, children, and teens into her stores. Granted, she plans to do this by stocking more non-book-related items:

She started by wooing children and their parents with toys about four years ago, after her research showed that 40 per cent of Indigo customers were adults with kids. Parents wanted educational and stimulating toys, not video games or battery-powered cars. (The chain promptly dropped in-store DVD monitors playing Dora the Explorer, after parents gave them a thumbs-down in a test run.) Ms. Reisman worried initially that the toys might cannibalize Indigo’s book sales, but in fact the stores with toys enjoy stronger book sales than those without, says chief merchant Joel Silver. Customers tend to stay longer in outlets with toys, and wander over to the books.

As for the teen market, Silver (who is not, as Quillblog first assumed, the guy who produced Die Hard) claims that teen sales have jumped 200% in the past five years, largely on the back of the Twilight series of teen-oriented vampire novels.

If Reisman is correct about content wanting to be digital (Quillblog will refrain from pointing out that content, like information, can’t want anything at all), then a move to entice more people into the chain’s stores may appear like one step forward and two steps back. On the other hand, Indigo wields such a stranglehold on the traditional book market in Canada that it’s probably not going to lose by beefing up its stores to attract a larger – and younger – clientele. In the event, the idea is so nutty it just might work.

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Indigo to launch its own e-reader?

Canada AM tech reporter Kris Abel was casually chatting with Indigo CEO Heather Reisman this morning – she had just got through doing an interview about her annual “summer reads” selections – when she revealed that Indigo is currently in final talks with a number of e-book reader manufacturers about adopting one of their devices and launching it here in Canada – under the Indigo name – by the end of this year.

The link to Abel’s post is currently broken, but the gist of it is as follows:

While chatting with myself back-stage she divulged the company’s plans, willing only to confirm that it won’t be the Sony Reader, already available and supported by Sony’s own online E-Book store, nor Amazon’s Kindle, which has yet to find a launch in Canada. Instead the retailer will launch their own service, one that will follow on the heels of their successful ShortCovers service, launched earlier this year.

No one from Indigo has verified Abel’s report, as of yet. Keep checking Q&Q Omni for further updates.

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Bookmarks: Stanza acquired by Amazon, and more

Sundry links from around the Web:

  • It looks like Shortcovers, Indigo’s downloadable e-book application for mobile devices, has some new competition: Lexycycle, the start-up behind the popular iPhone e-book reader Stanza, has been acquired by Amazon
  • U.S. judge orders advertising mogul Peter Arnel to pay back part of a $550,000 advance to HarperCollins
  • David Cronenberg is set to adapt a Robert Ludlum thriller for the silver screen

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Notes from BNC’s tech forum

About 225 industry people crowded into a Toronto conference room on Thursday for BookNet Canada’s annual technology forum. The theme of this year’s conference was “evolution or revolution,” though most of the speakers seemed to opt for the less radical of the two options: the event was focused on the brass tacks of adapting to the digital marketplace, with idealistic Web 2.0 barnstorming kept to a minimum.

BookNet has posted slides from the day’s presentations here, and it will also be posting videos of the talks to YouTube in the coming weeks (to be kept up to date, subscribe to BookNet’s mailing list). Below is a recap of some of the key themes addressed at the conference.

  • The rise of mobile devices. It was less than a year and a half ago that the Kindle first hit the market, but already the notion of a dedicated e-reader – even with e-Ink capabilities – is starting to look dated. Several speakers addressed how the increasing ubiquity of mobile devices – especially the iPhone – is creating what Indigo chief technical officer Michael Serbinis described as “a billion dollar opportunity” to provide digital content on the handheld devices people already have. (Indigo launched its downloadable e-book application Shortcovers two weeks ago, and according to Serbinis it is already being used by readers in 124 countries.) One of the most surprising successes in this emerging market is Stanza, an application that allows users to read e-books on their iPhones, which already has 1.5-million users in 60 countries and has sold over 7-million downloadable e-books since its launch last year. According to Stanza spokesperson Neelan Choksi, “There’s enough technology out there right now to make e-books a good reading experience.” The challenge is to make more content available to readers, and to inform them of what’s already available in digital formats.
  • Collective opportunities for Canadian publishers. One question on the minds of many people in the room was how to make sure that Canadian content, especially from small- and mid-size firms, is easily discoverable on the Web. Several speakers argued that this would require collective action among Canadian publishers, whether it be using the standard EPUB format or, as Craigs Riggs of the consulting firm Turner Riggs Workspace suggested, consolidating distribution in the digital realm. When pressed about including more Canadian content on Shortcovers, Indigo’s Serbinis said it would be working with more publishers in the coming weeks, but that the company would likely deal with smaller firms through a distributor in order to speed up the process. (Indigo’s chief merchant Joel Silver, responding to questions from the crowd, noted that smaller publishers can also upload their content to Shortcovers using the “create” function, and then “hustle” sales through blog posts and other marketing initiatives.)
  • Innovative new products. Several new products were demoed over the course of the day, including an overview of Shortcovers (currently available only to iPhone users), the new Sony e-Reader (which will include search, annotation, and highlighting features, as well as a touch screen, a built-in LED reading light, and the ability to display colour photos), and the new version of Stanza (which will include a built-in dictionary, customizable toolbars, and increased search capabilities). However, one of the most innovative new products on display came from none other than Harlequin Enterprises. The veteran romance publisher, which turns 60 this year, began offering several e-book-only programs in 2007. Since then, the company has also begun offering enriched editions of e-books that include extensive hyperlinks, full-colour photos, authors’ notes, etc. As the day’s closing speaker, Andrew Savikas of O’Reilly Media, noted, publishers need to begin thinking of e-books as more than just digital copies of print content. “E-books should not be print books delivered electronically,” Savikas said, but should actively take advantage of new capabilities offered by the Web.

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Bookmarks: reviews of Shortcovers, Mailer’s reviewers, and a new book for uppity editors

Sundry links from around the Web:

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Shortcovers set to launch tonight

While nerdy Americans await delivery of their Kindle 2s, nerdy Canadians can console themselves by trying Indigo’s new Shortcovers service. The ambitious e-book service – which allows users to download titles to their cellphones or personal computers for anywhere from $9.99 to $19.99 – launches tonight (or tomorrow, technically) at exactly one minute after midnight. You can see Q&Q Omni‘s previous coverage of Shortcovers here, you can get a sneak preview of what to expect here, and if you’re the early-adopter type you can go here tonight to actually download something.

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Eva Stachniak's Empress of the Night

Eva Stachniak poses with a copy of her book, Empress of the Night

Tea and snacks inspired by Eva Stachniak's Empress of the Night

Rimma Burashko with author Eva Stachniak

Eva Stachniak talks to the audience about the best and worst of Catherine the Great's favourites

Eva Stachniak smiles as she signs a copy of Empress of the Night for a fan

Fans wait in line to have their copies of Empress of the Night signed by Eva Stachniak

Fans wait in line to have their copies of Empress of the Night signed by Eva Stachniak

Lesley Strutt, Dean Steadman, Amanda Earl, Alastair Larwill and Frances Boyle

Frances Boyle, Dean Steadman, Lesley Strutt and Alastair Larwill

Amanda Earl

Jewel of the Thames launch

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