Although most wholesale and some retail participants in the bookselling channel have developed digital offerings, most of these businesses started as offshoots of their physical predecessors.
Until this week, that didn’t really strike me as unusual. My publishing education started in manufacturing and distribution, where printers have made a nice business out of “value-added” services that often made their customer relationships that much more “sticky”.
Speaking as part of a panel at the Publishing Business Conference and Expo, Michael Tamblyn explained that Indigo had elected to spin off Kobo (nee Shortcovers) so that it could compete unencumbered with the physical distributor that until then had been its parent.
This isn’t the only effort to separate a digital initiative from its parent. Over the past year, Sourcebooks has talked openly about the need to run two different companies to prepare for an uncertain future.
The Kobo decision (and Tamblyn’s low-key explanation) stood out largely because, with the shift in ownership, Indigo has made a bet on the future and set two complementary units on a bit of a collision path. That’s an innovative approach to a potentially disruptive future.